Mathetic Ritual of the Sun’s Ingresses

I was settling down this past Monday thinking of how to better explore the paths of the Tetractys.  Pathworking is fine and all, and I will never swear against it; it’s a powerful method in its own right, and when tweaked for the purposes of mathesis, will provide valuable experience in developing oneself theurgically.  The thing is that…well, I hate pathworking.  It’s a personal opinion of mine that physical, enacted ritual is superior for initiations and transformation compared to pathworking, which is more meditative and exploratory but also too mental and ungrounded to achieve the same ends.  Any physical addition to pathworking, such as using gestures or chanting, can definitely help empower the pathworking, but in the end it’s still primarily pathworking.  I tried coming up with different kinds of chants or seed syllable-type intonations to focus oneself on a manifesting or manifested version of a path to little result (I’ll keep those notes as a draft post for future reference just in case), but something kept nagging at me to think of something better.

Looking through my old drafts I had saved, I noticed that I started an idea a while back but never really fleshed it out any.  The idea was to have a stellar type of ritual, not focused on the planets or elements themselves but on the passage of the Sun as it travels from one sign of the Zodiac to the next.  After all, the whole point of the Gnosis Schema is to develop the self theurgically by using a set of twelve paths to traverse the ten sphairai of the Tetractys, and these twelve paths are given to the signs of the Zodiac.  If we consider ourselves as Suns, then the passage of the Sun through the Zodiac represents our own passage through Gnosis.  By celebrating the ingress of the Sun into each sign of the Zodiac, we celebrate and open ourselves up to a whole new stage of our development, formally opening up new gates and roads for us to travel.  This is an idea I wanted to develop, but I had little idea back then of how to actually go about building or thinking about such a ritual.  I think it’s time now to do just that.  Thus, at the beginning of Cancer 2017 and close to the start of a new mathetic year, let us now discuss αι Τελεται των Ηλιεισοδων (hai Teletai tōn Hēlieisodōn), the Rituals of the Solar Ingresses.

tetractys_paths_gnosis_signs

So, first, just because we like things in Greek, let’s list what the names of the Zodiac signs are in Greek for reference’s sake:

  1. Aries: Κριος (Krios)
  2. Taurus: Ταυρος (Tauros)
  3. Gemini: Διδυμοι (Didymoi)
  4. Cancer: Καρκινος (Karkinos)
  5. Leo: Λεων (Leōn)
  6. Virgo: Παρθενος (Parthenos)
  7. Libra: Ζυγος (Zygos)
  8. Scorpio: Σκορπιος (Skorpios)
  9. Sagittarius: Τοχοτης (Tokhotēs)
  10. Capricorn: Αιγοκερως (Aigokerōs)
  11. Aquarius: Υδροχοος (Hydrokhoos)
  12. Pisces: Ιχθυες (Ikhthyes)

When might we celebrate this kind of event?  As I reckon it, there are three options for us, each with their own pros and cons:

  • The first day after the Sun has astrologically entered the sign proper.  This is probably the most straightforward and obvious option, but we’d be careful to note that we’d mark this as the first sunrise coinciding with or falling immediately after the Sun’s entry to the sign.  Thus, if the Sun enters Taurus sometime on a Monday night after sunset, even though Monday is the first day of Taurus according to the modern Western sense, we’d only celebrate this starting at Tuesday morning, at the start of the first full day of Taurus.  The drawback is that such an ingress could occur at any time of the lunar month, which much of the rest of mathesis relies upon for its ritual timing.  After all, the solar year and lunar year are not easily synced and need constant corrections to keep roughly together.
  • The first Noumenia (start of the lunar month) while the Sun is in the sign.  This makes sense from a grammatomantic calendar standpoint, as we could then dedicate the whole rest of the month to works relating to the specific sign that the Sun has entered into.  However, this has a bit of a problem; the Noumenia could occur several weeks into the solar month of the zodiac sign, so we’d lose the “freshness” of the previous option.  Additionally, with lunar months being shorter than a solar month, there is the possibility of having two Noumenias within a single solar month.  In such a case, we’d only use the first one for our ingress ritual, but we’d know then that, if there’s another Noumenia just before the Sun changes sign, then the next one after the Sun enters the next sign would be late indeed.
  • The day of the letter of the sign while the Sun is in the sign.  For instance, if we’re celebrating the entry of the Sun into the sign of Taurus, we’d wait until the day of Γ, the letter associated with Taurus.  Just as with the Noumenia, there is the possibility that there might be two such days with the same letter while the Sun is in the same sign due to the fact that the lunar month is shorter than a solar twelfth of a year.  Further, just as with the Noumenia, this might position the day of the ritual rather late into the Sun’s travel into the sign.  However, this has the benefit of associating the natural power of the lunar day of the month with the sign of the Sun itself, and with the “offset” this would introduce since each sign has a different letter, and thus a different day of the month, we could sidestep some of the issues introduced by using a fixed date of the lunar month viz. the Noumenia.

To compare these options, here are the dates of the first sunrise of the solar ingresses into the signs of the Zodiac starting with Aries 2017, and the corresponding dates of celebration according to each of the three methods above, along with a comparison of how much of the lunar month has elapsed since it last began or how much of the Zodiac sign has already been traveled through by the Sun:

Ingress Day of
Ingress
First
Noumenia
First Lettered
Day
Sign Date
Aries
Κριος
March 21, 2017  3/21
Day of Υ
3/28
24%
3/29
26%
Taurus
Ταυρος
April 19  4/19
Day of Τ
4/26
23%
4/28
29%
Gemini
Διδυμοι
May 20  5/20
Day of Φ
5/26
19%
5/29
28%
Cancer
Καρκινος
June 21  6/21
Day of Ψ
6/24
10%
6/30
29%
Leo
Λεων
July 22  7/22
Day of ϡ
7/24
6%
8/4
42%
Virgo
Παρθενος
August 22  8/22
Day of Α
8/22
0%
9/3
39%
Libra
Ζυγος
September 22  9/22
Day of Β
10/20
90%
10/4
39%
Scorpio
Σκορπιος
October 23  10/23
Day of Δ
11/19
90%
11/3
37%
Sagittarius
Τοχοτης
November 22  11/22
Day of Δ
12/18
90%
12/6
48%
Capricorn
Αιγοκερως
December 21  12/21
Day of Δ
 1/17
90%
1/7
57%
Aquarius
Υδροχοος
January 20, 2018  1/20
Day of Δ
2/16
93%
2/7
62%
Pisces
Ιχθυες
February 18  2/18
Day of Γ
 3/17
90%
3/10
69%

This is just a small sample, but indicative of how close or far these lunar methods of reckoning a ritual date for the Sun’s ingress can vary compared to the exact solar date.  Given these three methods, I’m most inclined to go with the first option, with the third a close contender.  It would be nice to have this set of rituals synced to our already-established lunar calendar, but there’s too much variance with the lunar calendar to make it stick right.  Plus, according to even the most basic of principles of astrological magic, the most powerful time for a zodiacal-solar ritual is (barring a proper solar election) at the first degree of the sign, considered its strongest, with its last few degrees considered its weakest.  On these days of ingress, the ritual should be performed at sunrise, or as early in the day as possible; barring that, as close to the day of ingress as possible.  I’d suppose that, so long as the ritual is performed sometime in the first ten or so days of the Sun’s ingress into the sign, the ritual can be considered valid, though it is best to do it ASAP.

So, we have a set of twelve “holidays”, as it were, or high ritual days for those on the Gnosis schema.  It would be excellent, then, to celebrate all twelve, but if we were constrained for time or resources, could we rank them or group them together in terms of importance?  Absolutely, and this is based all on how we think about the groups of paths on the Gnosis Schema:

  • Of all these twelve days, it’s the day of the Ingress into Aries that is the most important.  This day celebrates the Sun’s rebirth, and our own renewal into a new cycle of the Gnosis Schema from an old one.  If only one ingress could be celebrated, it is this one.
  • With a little more resources and time, the days of the Ingress into Aries, into Leo, and into Sagittarius are as important as each other and should be celebrated if all twelve cannot.  Each of these ingresses marks the departure of the Sun from one set of four signs of the Zodiac into the next four after completing a whole elemental cycle; for us on the Gnosis schema, these ingresses mark our transition from one cycle to the next (Hot to Cold, Cold to Cosmic, Cosmic to Hot).
  • With enough resources and time, each ingress day could be celebrated on its own as they arrive, each ingress marking the transition of the Sun from one sign to the next, and our own transition from one path to the next on the Gnosis Schema.

Thus, to offer a kind of neopagany parallel, the Ingress into Aries would be as important to mathesis as Samhain is to neopagans, the ingress into fire signs as a group as important as the cross-quarter days including Samhain, and the ingress into all twelve signs as a group as important as monthly sabbaths of the cross-quarter days, solstices, and equinoxes.  (I can’t believe I just used that sort of reference, since I’m about as far from neopagan as you can get, but I suppose it works for getting the point across.)

Like with my self-initiation ritual into mathesis I discussed a while back, I’ll refrain from posting the specifics of what the ritual of solar ingress would specifically contain.  I’ve got my reasons for doing so: this is all still highly experimental, this is still a mystery path, and…well, I’m far from done designing a complete ritual for such an event.  However, I’ve got my ideas, and I’ll definitely detail those at a high level for the sake of discussion and thinking out things aloud.  Unlike the solar rituals of the Egyptian priests who guided the Sun through the underworld, and unlike the harvest festivals of the old pagans and heathens, and unlike the celebration of neopagans who reflect on the story of the God and Goddess throughout the year, these rituals of solar ingress use the outer world as a symbol for internal development, and will be used to link one’s self to the cosmic forces at play as the Sun travels through the skies.  In other words, by bringing ourselves into stronger alignment with the natural flow and rhythm of the cosmos, we take on the same development and live in a spiritually natural, balanced way that follows the course the gods themselves take.  We do this by, yes, celebrating the entry of the Sun into a new zodiac sign every month to mark the passage of time, but this is just the external aspect of it; we emulate and, eventually, become the Sun itself as it opens each new gate and takes its first steps along each new path.  By sharing in the work of the gods, new possibilities are opened unto us, granting us new power and responsibilities each step of the way.

As the Sun ages through one sign of the Zodiac, the power of the Sun is generally seen to decrease slightly; the final degrees of a sign are the weakest and darkest, and generally bode no good things.  As the Sun enters a new sign, the Sun’s light is strengthened and renewed each and every time; further, this whole process is repeated on a grander scale of the whole year as the Sun shines brightest in summer, diminishes in autumn, becomes darkest and feeblest in winter, and becomes renewed in the spring.  Just as Apollo is pulled ahead by the horses of his chariot, so too are we pulled forward by the powers of time and growth; just as Apollo is led by Hermes to his destinations hither and fro, so too are we pulled ahead by Hermes as guide and protector.  It is these two gods that mathesis works intensely with, and we can already see roles for them appearing in these rituals of solar ingress: Apollo to cleanse and renew us for entering a new gate, and Hermes to guide and lead us as we take our first steps on a new path.  Thus, each ritual of solar ingress must be preceded by a purification, either by khernimma or katharmos, so that we can enter a new stage of our lives clean and proper.  We must then call on Hermes to open the gate itself and set us on the right path so that we do not get waylaid, lost, or trapped by the darkness that surrounds us.

What I don’t yet know about including, and this is where pathworking will come in help, is the notion of a guardian or gatekeeper for each of these gates.  After all, all gates have some sort of protection for themselves, and the notion of a being or god dwelling within each path against which one must pass a test is not precisely new; yes, the idea is common in Golden Dawn practices, but the idea of a Sphinx posing riddles is old.  We do know that each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac is given to one of the twelve gods of Olympus, saith Cornelius Agrippa in his Orphic Scale of Twelve, but I’m not sure if these would be the same thing.  Additionally, I’m uncertain of what specific offerings should be made as part of the ritual besides the usual ones.  This is all for future development, planning, and pathworking to see what I can see and find out what can be found out and pieced together.  After all, while I may experiment with different ritual layouts, I’d like to start doing these in earnest starting at the spring equinox next year for Aries.  This gives me more than half a year’s time to try things out, which sounds like a lot of time, but…we’ll see.

These rituals of solar ingress are intended to open the gates and let flow the power along the channels indicated by the paths on the Tetractys.  What they allow us to do is to help guide us along the Gnosis Schema around the Tetractys, but they do not open up each of the sphairai to us.  These rituals can open the gate to a new path, and can bring us to the gate at the end of the path to a new sphaira, but without us unlocking that final gate, we are not able to continue along the Gnosis Schema.  Merely celebrating the rituals of solar ingress is not enough to deliver us to gnosis; these rituals are monthly rites of passage, but like any rite of passage, they only give us license to do more things without specifying how or in what timeframe.  Anyone in a culture who undergoes the rite of passage into adulthood does not have their entire lives mapped out for them from that moment on; it only gives them the ability and recognition of adulthood, with all its privileges and responsibilities.  Over the course of the year, as we celebrate the rituals of solar ingress, we open the ways for us to travel to each sphaira in turn, but we must still walk the path and, moreover, undergo the process of unlocking and experiencing each sphaira on the Tetractys, each of these ten stages of life and development.  This would be a separate ritual, which I’ve not quite yet had plans for, but it makes sense.

In addition to the usual pathworking and astral crap that goes along with all of this, of course.

 

Mathetic Pathworking of the Tetractys

Alright, time to actually talk practice again.  The past few posts were heavy on number theory, but the end of the last post touched on how it impacts our traversal of the Tetractys and how we can start thinking of numbers in terms of how we can actually use them for our spiritual progression.

So, disclaimer, guys: although this post is going to be on pathworking, astral/clairvoyant exploration, and similar topics, I make no claims to being an expert on this.  Although pathworking is not something foreign to me, it’s something that I underutilize in my work, if not outright ignore, even though I recognize the usefulness of it.  I’m geared more towards physical ritual, but astral exploration is something I’d like to get more into.  To that end, Tetractyean pathworking, yay!

The idea behind pathworking is actually fairly simple, and I’ve employed it before when doing meditations on the geomantic figures waaaay back in the day, but also more recently when meditating on the letters of the Greek alphabet.  The technique I use for “astral contemplation” is straightforward:

  1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position.  Clear the mind and regulate the breath.
  2. Visualize the symbol to be contemplated as clearly as you can.  Focus on the symbol becoming as real as possible in the mind.
  3. Vizualize a door, gate, veil, or curtain on which the symbol is written, engraved, embroidered, or whatever.  Let the symbol to be contemplated mark the gate as the entry to the “world” of that symbol.  You might picture the same door each time, or let the door form on its own around the symbol.
  4. Once both the symbol and the gate are fully realized in the mind, open the gate (or have it open) and step through it.
  5. Explore the world of the symbol.  Take note of all you perceive, and interact with the world as desired.
  6. When ready to leave, exit the world by taking the same path backwards, passing by each thing that was encountered on the way in until you reach the gate.
  7. Exit through the gate back into your own headspace, and close the gate.
  8. Visualize the gate dissolving into the symbol itself so that only the symbol remains.
  9. Visualize the symbol disseminating into one’s own sphere to as to retain the power and lessons learned from the contemplation.

You can use this with any set of symbols, from the seals of spirits to the geomantic figures to the planetary sigils from Agrippa to Greek letter or Tarot cards.  It’s a very malleable process that doesn’t rely much on ritual, if at all, though it can certainly be augmented by it through the use of mind-enhancing incenses, consecrated candles or oils, preliminary chants, and the like.

However, what this process best benefits from is preliminary study of the symbol.  What is the symbol’s name?  What spirits is it associated with?  What planets, elements, animals, plants, stones, forces, stars, and numbers is it associated with?  What mythic figures from different religions does it connect to?  In other words, it’s a vital, crucial part of the process to understand the correspondences of the symbol first.  You don’t need to see how they all interact with each other; I can hardly tell you how or why the twelve tribes of Israel are associated with the Zodiac signs the way they are, but they’re there for a reason.  It’s the astral exploration and contemplation that help with understanding the subtle interactions of everything, and give one a deeper knowledge of the symbol by means of experience.

So, let’s review our map, the Tetractys with the paths of letters.  As before, there are two main sets of paths, the Gnosis Schema with its Mitsubishi-like turns, and the Agnosis Schema with its hexagram-hexagon set.

The difference between the Gnosis and Agnosis Schemata involve the kind of force associated with each schema, as well as what sphairai they reach.  The Gnosis Schema is based on the twelve signs of the Zodiac, one step for every sign, as the student travels around the Tetractys.  The Agnosis Schema, on the other hand, contains the non-zodiacal forces: the seven planets and the four elements plus the quintessence of Spirit.  This is where one can get trapped in the cycles of this world, buffeted around by the archons and cruel fate; the Gnosis Schema, on the other hand, indicates the natural, fluid, smooth passage through all aspects of the cosmos up to and including purest Divinity, where we take the reins of our chariot and proceed on our true path to accomplish our One Thing.

tetractys_paths_gnosis_signs

Let’s focus first on the twelve paths of the Gnosis Schema.  Each path has an associated letter, and each letter with a sign of the Zodiac.  If we use Agrippa’s Orphic Scale of Twelve, we already have a wealth of symbolic knowledge on each path, to say nothing of what Liber 777 or other books of correspondence can get us.  However, the number 12 isn’t strictly given to the Zodiac, even in Hellenic reckoning.   There’s also the notion of the Twelve Labors of Heracles (of which the Thelemites have a fascinating view), and some medieval alchemists considered the Great Work to be composed of twelve stages, such as the Gates of George Ripley or the Keys of Basil Valentine.  All these can be considered as a single group, quest, set of paths, tasks, or transformations required to traverse the entirety of the Tetractys by means of the Gnosis Schema.

What of the Agnosis Schema, then?  The Agnosis Schema isn’t just one set of forces; in fact, according to how things are set up on the Tetractys, we can divvy these twelve forces up into three groups of four.  The first set, known as the Ideal forces, are the four elements themselves: Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  The second set, the Empyrean set, are the two luminaries, the planet Mercury, and the quasi-element quasi-planet quasi-force Quintessence, aka Spirit.  The third set, the Ouranic forces, are the other four non-luminary planets of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  The four elements and the seven planets all have their usual correspondences (cf. Agrippa’s Scale of Four and Scale of Seven plus, like, literally everything else written in the Western and Near Eastern occult corpus for 5000 years, give or take a millennium), but it’s that last force of Spirit that kinda confuses things a bit.  Spirit wasn’t really considered a separate force way back when; sure, as there are five Platonic solids mentioned in Plato’s Timaeus, there was a notion of a fifth…something out there, but it wasn’t considered to be an element like how Fire or Water was.  Nor was it a visible object in the night sky like the planets or stars, however Plato claims that this force decorated the entire cosmos.  I claim that Spirit is best seen as a median between the elements and planets, or a substrate underlying any other force out there, a type of non-materialized metaforce required for the materialization of anything else.  It’s like how, in order for an object to exist, there must exist a space for it to be present.  That kind of thing.  You can figure out the rest.

However, in addition to the zodiacal, planetary, and elemental forces, each path on the Tetractys is given one of the 24 Greek letters (indeed, this was really the whole impetus for having the paths to begin with).  Each Greek letter can be viewed in different ways.  The first three of these are fairly mundane: the name, the glyph, and the sound of the specific letter, all of which are given on a post way back when I first started considering the Greek letters as a vehicle for theurgy.

Okay, so.  At this point, I’d normally provide a table listing all the correspondences I’ve just mentioned to recap them all, but…the format of my blog would have this table run off the column of this text into the wild unknown, and gods only know what havoc it’d wreak on any number of RSS feeds, so I’m going to refrain from doing so this once.  I mean, if you wanted a table of correspondences that big, just get a copy of Skinner’s Complete Magician’s Tables.  Maybe, one day, I’ll publish my own focusing more on the Greek letters than Hebrew, but that’s not now.  Instead, go ahead and take a gander at all the links I’ve posted above and feed your hungry mind on the connections of the paths to the letters and to the forces and to everything else.

Why study all this?  Because the more information that is accessible to us in our minds, the more tools we’re providing our spirits for when we begin astral exploration and contemplation of these symbols.  It’s a commonly-heard refrain in some circles that “the limits of my language are the limits of my world” (cf. Sapir-Whorf hypothesis); if you don’t have an appropriate symbol set to work with, you can’t communicate, hold onto, or receive information that could use those symbols.  The more symbols we become familiar with, the more our minds and spirits have to work with, which expands the possibilities of vision and clairvoyance.  After all, it’s as my favorite comic seer Dominic Deegan says:

When a seer looks into a crystal ball and spouts some cryptic message, it’s not because second sight is inherently mysterious.  It’s because the seer doesn’t know what he’s looking at and he’s probably disguising his ignorance with cliché mysticism.  To master second sight you must have knowledge, which is found in books, which is why we have so much required reading for this class. (January 5, 2007)

Second sight is hard.  It requires a solid knowledge of history, politics, religion, arcane theory and even geography to really be of any use.  Otherwise it’s just looking at pictures. (January 11, 2007)

Study hard, kids. That’s important, no matter what you do in the occult.

Okay, so, say you’ve got a good grasp of the symbols, correspondences, associations, and affiliations of the letters with everything else.  What now?  We tap into that with pathworking, which is ritualized contemplation within a specific theurgical context.  Taking into account what’s commonly done in Golden Dawn and related orders, we would first mentally place ourselves within a particular sphaira as its own separate “temple”, envisioning a path leading to it (the one we used to enter) and other paths leading away from it (the possibilities of egress from the temple along the other paths).  Taking Alex Sumner’s brief discourse on qabbalistic pathworking, there are several steps to this process (rephrased from Sumner’s approach):

  1. Preparation of the physical temple and the pathworker.
  2. Visualization of the origin of the pathworking.
  3. Invocation of the forces of the path to be worked.
  4. The departure onto the path from the origin.
  5. The vision of the path.
  6. The arrival from the path unto the destination.
  7. The return to the world and normal consciousness.

Now, we can’t simply replace all the qabbalistic elements with mathetic ones; in many cases, I simply haven’t developed all the same things, and in others, I have no need to.  However, the underlying idea is the same, and many of the same methods can be adapted to this.  The important part that needs to be figured out first, however, is…where exactly do we start?

The whole point of undergoing initiation into the Gnosis Schema is to bring us from wherever we might be on the Agnosis Schema to the central sphaira on the Gnosis Schema.  Before that point, we don’t know where we are or how we got there; we need to be brought to a point of balance so as to be able to grow from that point, rather than trying to catch our bearings while we’re lost adrift on stormy seas.  After initiation, we find ourselves at the central sphaira, which has six paths leading to it all, all equally spread apart.  Thus, we begin at the sphaira of Mercury, and thence proceed onward to the path of Beta, which leads us down to the sphaira of Jupiter/Air.  We repeat the process time and again, periodically returning to Mercury, and continue along our paths.

So, if we begin at Mercury, how do we envision a “temple” or world for this sphaira?  That…well, I don’t really know what it would look like.  I do not know whether I can slip in my own visions of the planetary sphere of Mercury, and I doubt I could very easily, though it might make sense.  I do not know if the image I already have in mind can work, since I haven’t actually gone and explored what this sphaira looks like yet (to my own great shame).  But, if I were pressed to come up with a simple (if not simplistic) view based on what we already know and what we’ve already developed, I suppose we could always go with this little imagining I came up with:

Around you is a forum, a marketplace, filled with stalls and tents and shops all around you.  For some, these stalls are each manned and staffed with heaps of all sorts of foods, spices, riches, and goods; for others, the marketplace is deserted and dilapidated, with it looking more like a shantytown full of ghosts.  In either case, you stand at the center of three roads crossing each other in six directions.  The sky has the usual weather, the air balmy and breezy, and the road is full of dust sweeping in from each of the roads to the center where you now stand.  At the very center of the marketplace, in the exact middle of this six-way crossroads, stands a tall brazier atop a round altar.  This brazier has a fire lit of pure white gold flame, gently warming but weak.  Each road is lined with stalls and shops, though they start becoming fewer and farther between the further you look down each road.  Looking down one of the roads in the direction of the morning sun, you see at the far end of it, where the shops and buildings and tents give way to grass and rocks and dirt roads, a tall stone arch glittering in the light of the sky.

As you walk down this path, the bustle and business of the marketplace (or, alternatively, the whispers of wind and loose tentcloth) die down to silence, almost in anticipation of you reaching the arch.  As you get closer to the arch and further from the tents, you see that the arch leads onto a bridge crossing a deep chasm, heading off around you to both the left and the right.  The whole marketplace is on a large island, cut off from the surrounding lands yet connected by means of these six arches and their bridges wide enough to carry travelers, merchants, pilgrims, warlords, princes, paupers, and others of all kinds and nations.  Yet, these bridges are all but empty.  Beyond, however, you can see a whole new world through the arch, hearing all sorts of new voices and sounds, yet somehow it was not apparent to you until you looked through the arch itself.

The arch is elaborate, delicately engraved with repetitive motifs echoing long-lost languages that yet look familiar to you, mixed in with baroque depictions of cities, wars, crops, livestock, wildlands, gods above and below, and so many other scenes that could never be descried except at close distance, and at a close enough distance, you see all these patterns forming an infinitely-detailed fractal building upon and within itself endlessly.  At the very top of the arch, you see that the whole arch has been engraved with the ancient Greek letter Β; under it, suspended by gilded iron chains, is a brightly-gleaming lantern.  It has not been lit, though you can tell from the slow way it sways that it is full of oil and ready to be ignited at a moment’s notice.  Just above where the flame would be is a rope, tied to both columns supporting the arch, and from that rope a gate that, although fine and delicately-wrought, prevents you from passing through the arch proper.

Light the lamp and let its light beckon to those who would seek to enter, guided and amplified by the white gold flame in the crossroads.  Burn the rope, and bring down the gate.  Open the path to this new road and to this new world.  Leave the town as you are, and return when you are not.

…a bit of fancy prose, sure, but why not?  I don’t have much else to go on at the moment.  Besides, when I do get around to actually exploring the central sphaira, I’ll be able to get a better vision of the place and use that as the preliminary setup for a “mathetic temple”.  The use of the “gate blocking the arch” bit was to show that one cannot simply proceed immediately without doing work to earn the right of passage upon the path; in the Golden Dawn style of pathworking, each path had its own guard that needed to be appeased or tested first before one could go along the path.  Similar things should apply here, I figure, though the methods of testing would likely be different.  Plus, I might actually become inspired enough to give the damn thing its own proper name and title, as opposed to just calling it the “central sphaira” or “sphaira of Mercury”.

Revisiting the Revelations of the Numbers

I didn’t expect to write this post so soon after the last one.  After months of nothing new happening, suddenly I write two posts on mathesis and Iamblichean number theory on the Tetractys?  It’s good to be back, that’s for sure.  I suppose this downtime since last year has done me good and given me time to internally process a lot more than I expected.  Get a drink, dear reader, because I’m gonna go on at length for a bit here.

Okay, so, last time, I started (again) contemplating this mathesis stuff I started developing back in 2014.  Mathesis literally means “teaching”, and is the style of theurgy and ritual I’m developing as an exploration of Neo-Pythagorean, Neoplatonic spirituality based more on Hellenic philosophy than the Jewish philosophy inherent in Kabbala, mangled beyond recognition into Hermetic Qabbalah, and which has unfortunately formed a procrustean bed of occultism to which so much (maybe even too much) has been chained down by.  To be fair, there’s a decent amount of Pythagoras in QBLH (regardless of whether it’s Jewish Kabbala, Christian Cabala, or Hermetic Qabbalah), but nobody really knows what Pythagoras actually taught.  We know he was A Thing, but we don’t know which Things he was.  And…well, I find lots of issues that’ve collectively poisoned the well for me in Hermetic Qabbalah, and I find it hard for me to go back to it anymore.  Yeah, I still use the stuff when it’s called for in Western Hermetic ritual, but I want to find something better, hence my exploration of this system I’m (slowly) developing.  A crucial aspect of it is focusing on the Tetractys, the sacred triangle of ten points that represent the fundamental ideal for all things in the cosmos.  Yes, this path involves a lot of meditation on Pythagorean number theory, handed down to us by the Neoplatonists such as Iamblichus, so let’s go back to the basics and recall what we’ve discussed before about the numbers themselves.

In this sort of Pythagorean Tetractyan math, there are ten numbers plus a special “zero” non-number liminal amount that we should concern ourselves with.  Each of these numbers has a special attribute given to it:

  1. Mēden: Emptiness
  2. Monad: Individuation
  3. Dyad: Relation
  4. Triad: Harmony
  5. Tetrad: Form
  6. Pentad: Growth
  7. Hexad: Order
  8. Heptad: Essence
  9. Octad: Mixture
  10. Ennead: Realization
  11. Decad: Wholeness

Moreover, we noted before that there are special relationships between pairs of these numbers if you take the whole Tetractys and reflect it around a central horizontal axis:

  • Being: Mēden/Decad
  • Becoming: Monad/Ennead
  • Variation: Dyad/Octad
  • Accordance: Triad/Heptad
  • Structure: Tetrad/Hexad
  • Growth: Pentad

tetractys_decad

These relationships are, in a sense, a more “ideal” version of each of their correspondent numbers, and form a sort of meta-Tetractys.  For instance, the Monad has the secret of individuation (a thing in the process of becoming a single thing), while the Ennead has that of realization (a thing in the process of becoming real); both reveal the secret of becoming, but do so in different ways.  The numbers after the Pentad are reflections of the numbers going before, both reflecting off an ideal numerical concept.

As a sort of exercise, let’s now take another look at that picture above.  If you take the lower inverted Tetractys, it implies the existence of two boundary “hidden” tetractyes, such that the Hexad is really just a tetrad plus two monads, the Heptad a triad plus two dyads, and so forth.  If we were to keep this all truly reflective, and if there are two “upright but hidden” tetractyes bounding the lower tetractys, then we should also envision two “inverse but hidden” tetractyes bounding the upper tetractys.  Thus, the Monad is just an ennead minus two tetrads, the Dyad an octad minus two triads, and so forth.

tetractys_decad_full

This can then imply another set of mutual relationships between the numbers:

  • Monad and Tetrad
    • Upper Monad/Lower Tetrad = Monad and Hexad
    • Lower Monad/Upper Tetrad = Ennead and Tetrad
  • Dyad and Triad
    • Upper Dyad/Lower Triad = Dyad and Heptad
    • Lower Dyad/Upper Triad = Octad and Triad
  • Pentad

I list the Pentad here as well, but it has no relationship to anything else, as it is not properly part of the Tetractys (either one, upper or lower, upright or inverse), and also because it is “hidden” as something apart, a balance around which the other two tetractyes stand.  That said, if anything, the Pentad is part of a relationship with the Decad, being exactly half of it, and also thus in a relationship with the Mēden, nothingness and emptiness which is nothing more than the flip side of the same coin as the Decad.

However, this all implies that the Monad is not truly just the Monad that is built with nothing before it, but that it is formed from subtracting from the Ennead.  If we treat all numbers as equally and c0-eternally present, then sure, that would work, but that’s not how the ancients thought about these numbers.  To them, the Monad was first, and underlies all other numbers without relying on them for existence.  Thus, it is the Ennead that relies upon the existence of the Monad and not vice versa, so perhaps we shouldn’t rely on this way of conceiving relationships between the numbers.  Alternatively, we might say that the “ideal” concepts of Becoming, Variation, Accordance, and Structure are identical to those of Individuation, Relation, Harmony, and Form in all ways, simply being another set of terms for the same exact things.  This would mean then that the other four ideas of Realization, Mixture, Essence, and Order are reflections of the “pure” or “true” upright Tetractys, and not that they are on the same level being reflected from the “ideal” concepts.  We might then conceive of Mixture being a higher “register” of Relation, that the Octad is a higher “evolution” of the Dyad, much as people claim Uranus is a higher “octave” of the forces of Mercury, or how 20 is a higher base of the number 2.

Thinking of the numbers in this sense means that, every time we proceed from the concept of Monadic Becoming to Tetradic Structure, we then hit the concept of Pentadic Growth, then proceed back up from the Tetrad to the Monad to…well, the Mēden or Decad, take your pick, depending on how you want to conceive of it.  Then you bounce back down from the Monad through the Tetrad, grow upon the Pentad, then back up, then back down, and so forth.  If we use an expanded version of the Tetractys, going from the Monad to the fifteenth rank, we can see this in action, as below:

tetractys_pendedecad

We first proceed from the Monad to the Dyad to the Triad to the Tetrad, then hit the Pentad.  Then, upon reaching the Hexad (really the first higher register of the Tetrad), we go to the Heptad (higher register of the Triad), then the Octad (higher register of the Dyad), then the Ennead (higher register of the Monad), and then we hit the Decad, which you might consider to be a higher register of the Mēden.  After that, we hit the eleventh rank (the Hendecad if you want to be fancy about it), which as we see is an even higher register of the Monad.  Thus, the Dodecad (rank 12) is an equally-high register of the Dyad, the Tridecad (rank 13) of the Triad, and so on.  Note, though, that just as the lower tetractys has two hidden upright tetractyes supporting it on either side, the tetractys of the ranks higher than twelve has four hidden tetractyes, two on each side of each type.

Every time we finish one Tetractys of evolution (Becoming through Structure), we bring all of that with us each step of the way along the next time.  And, every time we finish the next Tetractys, we also bring that one with us, too; note how the third Tetractys in the picture above, ranks 11 through 14, is nestled between both upright and inverse tetractyes, one of each on each side of the central tetractys that we’re developing.  Each time we progress, we build upon and bring with ourselves all that we have done before, again another way to describe the “everything eternally flows” concept of the Gnosis Schema mentioned last time.

So, consider the Hendecad, rank 11.  This row is composed of the Monad, plus two hidden upright monads and two hidden lower tetrads.  The upper monad (rank 1) is associated with the pure concept of Becoming, i.e. Individualization, and the lower tetrad is really another way to describe the Hexad (rank 6), which is associated with Order.  We know that Order is a higher register of the same concept as Form, i.e. Structure, and since we now have both Structure and Becoming together, we now have joined the Monad and Tetrad again in the same relationship we foresaw with our little mental exercise above.  So the relationship between the Monad and Tetrad still stands, as does that of the Dyad and Triad.  Good to know I didn’t have that little mental exercise or Adobe Illustrator use go to waste after all.

So, let’s revisit the relationship between the Monad/Tetrad and Dyad/Triad and flesh those out a bit more.  If we combine the numbers of these relationships and take the median of the sum, we can tease out some finer points of the relationships these numbers have amongst themselves.

  • Monad and Tetrad.  This pairing overall combines the concepts of Becoming with Structure, the formative beginning and end of all things that allow us to discern why we come into being, and as what we come into being.
    • Upper Monad/Lower Tetrad = Monad and Hexad= 1 + 6 = 7, whose median is 4.  Individuation and Order, with Form as the balance.  As a thing comes into being for the first time, it focuses on its place in the overall order of the cosmos and universe into which it finds itself becoming.  However, being initially without form, it thus requires one; the first thing anything requires in order to begin to achieve its goal is a form conducive to its goal and purpose.
    • Lower Monad/Upper Tetrad = Ennead and Tetrad = 9 + 4 = 13, whose median is 7.  Realization and Form, with Essence as the balance.  As a thing becomes manifested and completed, it focuses on its form and how it will help it achieve its goal.  With a form and a manifestation, what becomes the focus of investigation is now purpose, our essence, our telos within the overall cosmos.  We reflect upon ourselves and our forms, having come into being, to question why and for what we come into being.
  • Dyad and Triad.  This pairing overall combines the concepts of Variation with Accordance, the principles of difference and similarity that relate to all things so as to learn what and how to achieve our desired ends.
    • Upper Dyad/Lower Triad = Dyad and Heptad = 2 + 7 = 9, whose median is 5.  Relation and Essence, with Growth as the balance.  As a thing comes into being and realizes what is around it and, moreover, what things are not itself, it learns to discern the essences of things, including its own, by means of comparison.  This is not for idle sophistry; this very act of “know thyself” is a way of growing into ones own essence.  We cannot escape our essence, but we can learn how to grow into it in a way conducive to its purpose.
    • Lower Dyad/Upper Triad = Octad and Triad = 8 + 3 = 11, whose median is 6.  Mixture and Harmony, with Order as the balance.  As we fall into place and amongst our peers and all the other things in the cosmos, we learn how to get along with them.  The sheer power of being mixed among things is the catalyst for attaining harmony, for the overall sake of creating an overall order so as to help us and all other things achieve all our purposes.

All this leaves the issue of the relationship between the Pentad, Decad, and the Mēden.  We see that, just as the Hendecad is a higher register of the Monad, and that the Hexad is a higher register of the Tetrad, we can say that the Decad is a higher register of the Pentad.  But…this is a little weird.  I mean, yeah, it logically follows, but we also know that the Decad is also a higher register of the Mēden, as both reflect a different state of Being.  I mean, right?  The Mēden is Being by Emptiness, where a thing that exists is empty of independent existence and relies entirely on all other things to exist; the Decad is Being by Wholeness, where a thing that exists is full of all things that exist, containing everything else.  And yet, the Decad is nothing more than the liminal point between one iteration of the full Tetractys counted out and another; just as we started with the Mēden before the Monad, we start with the Decad before the Hendecad.  In a sense, the Decad and Mēden are equals in their own relationship.

What of the Pentad, then?  The Pentad is the balance point between the Mēden and the Decad, and we associate the Pentad with the idea of Growth.  Growth is a distinct concept from any of Becoming, Variation, Accordance, and Structure, as it builds upon and enhances them all.  Consider that the Pentad is the only one of the numbers that can be formed in two distinct ways using distinct numbers in the sum: the Pentad can be formed by adding either the Monad with the Tetrad or the Dyad with the Triad.  All the other numbers in the Decad have only one way to use distinct numbers to form the sum (9 = 4 + 3 + 2, 6 = 4 + 2, etc.)  Even the Decad itself cannot lay claim to this little fact.  The only other number that can be considered as special is the Mēden, which isn’t even a number according to the Greeks; it has no sum because it has no value, because it is nothing.  Thus, in a sense, the Decad is conceptually equal to the Mēden, even if not arithmetically equal, because they are both Being in contraparallel ways.

The Pentad represents growth because it affords the cosmos a power of balance, reciprocity, distribution and flow in a way utterly unlike any other number.  It is neither static nor dynamic, neither oppositional nor reinforcing, neither varying nor assimilating, neither complete unto itself nor utterly and only part of everything else.  In a way, it is Growth (Pentad) and Being (Decad/Mēden) that are also part of their own relationship, and if we’re to be proper about it, we would say that the Decad is a higher register of the Pentad, and not that the Decad is a higher register of the Mēden, because the Mēden doesn’t actually exist except as everything else (being completely empty of independent existence, like a kind of hypostasis or substratum of all numbers, as it were).

So, let’s put this all together in a table for clarification, shall we?  As above, we can identify Individuation with Becoming, Relation with Accordance, Harmony with Accordance, and Form with Structure; thus, all these concepts have the same number.  However, we can distinguish between Individuation and Realization by saying that the former is “manifesting” and the latter “manifested”, like with our geomantic mental exploration of the Tetractys from before.

Concept
Ideal Manifesting Manifested
Monad Becoming Individuation Realization
1 9
Dyad Variation Relation Mixture
2 8
Triad Accordance Harmony Essence
3 7
Tetrad Structure Form Order
4 6
Pentad Growth Being
5 Emptiness Wholeness
0 10

All this is well and good, but how do we think of this in terms of a more practical manner?  I mean, it’s good to understand the numbers and their relationships for their own sake, but where does it get us?  Well, consider again the Gnosis Schema:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths_circuit1

Every time we traverse one of the three systems on this schema (Hot, Cold, or Cosmic), although there are four distinct paths and four distinct sphairai, there are actually five different steps.  Consider the Hot System: we begin at Mercury, proceed to Jupiter/Air, then to Mars/Fire, then to Sun/Sulfur, and then back to Mercury.  We proceed from the Monad to the Dyad to the Triad to the Tetrad to the Pentad…which then becomes the Monad for the next system.  As we proceed from our starting point, we undergo a process of analysis and synthesis; as we return to our starting point, we complete this process and prepare ourselves for the next process.  This completion/initiation point is the liminal sphaira of Growth, the Pentad, which is hidden from but implied by the numerical structure of the Tetractys itself.

Okay, but then this leaves two issues.  The first is that the process of the Gnosis Schema doesn’t take four steps, nor does it take ten steps; it takes twelve.  To use the astrological correspondences of the sphairai:

  1. Mercury → Jupiter
  2. Jupiter → Mars
  3. Mars → Sun
  4. Sun → Mercury
  5. Mercury → Moon
  6. Moon → Saturn
  7. Saturn → Venus
  8. Venus → Mercury
  9. Mercury → Fixed Stars
  10. Fixed Stars → The One
  11. The One → Earth
  12. Earth → Mercury

The fourth, eighth, and twelfth steps are where we leave one system to return back to Mercury so as to proceed to the next system on the Gnosis Schema.  If we elide the first two of these steps by considering that we only “pass through” Mercury, we can get down to ten:

  1. Mercury → Jupiter
  2. Jupiter → Mars
  3. Mars → Sun
  4. Sun → (Mercury) → Moon
  5. Moon → Saturn
  6. Saturn → Venus
  7. Venus → (Mercury) → Fixed Stars
  8. Fixed Stars → The One
  9. The One → Earth
  10. Earth → Mercury

This way of reckoning the transitions between one system and the next as seamless might be considered ideal, thinking of the whole process of traversing the Tetractys as a Decad unto itself, although a bit forced in my opinion.  Yes, if we start at Mercury, then we may not need to consider it as a distinct sphaira that we need to reckon again.  However, this thought leaves a funny taste in my mouth.  If we undergo the process of analysis and synthesis within one system after leaving Mercury, then when we return, we’re not the same person anymore, and Mercury will have new lessons to teach us before we proceed on to the next system.  As we change, so do the lessons we must learn.  After all, παντα ρει.  Besides this, having twelve distinct steps to traverse the Tetractys is a pleasant echo of the twelve signs that the Sun passes through during the course of the year (and, additionally, is the fundamental thought behind associating these paths with the signs of the Zodiac and the rest of the letters of the Greek alphabet onto the paths of the Tetractys).

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_gnosis_paths

So much for that issue, which turned out to be moot in the end.  The other is actually more notable, and goes back to our analysis of the first four numbers of the Decad before the Pentad (Monad through Tetrad) as “manifesting” and the second set after the Pentad (Hexad through Ennead) as “manifested”, the Upper and Lower Tetractyes, respectively, and how they relate to the three systems.  Say that we start at Mercury, and proceed around the Gnosis Schema along the twelve paths.  We know that every time we complete a system, we have gone through five sphairai, beginning with and ending at Mercury.

  1. Hot System
    1. Mercury
    2. Jupiter
    3. Mars
    4. Sun
    5. Mercury
  2. Cold System
    1. Mercury
    2. Moon
    3. Saturn
    4. Venus
    5. Mercury
  3. Cosmic System
    1. Mercury
    2. Fixed Stars
    3. The One
    4. Earth
    5. Mercury

Note how we attain the Decad, the Wholeness of Being, after only having completed the second Cold System without having gotten to the third Cosmic System.  When we come back to Mercury after the Cosmic System, we end up at the Pendedecad, rank 15, which is not a completed decad.  This is awkward, since it means that one trip around the Gnosis Schema is not enough.  Additionally, if we consider that the upper “manifesting” tetractys numbers (Monad through Tetrad) and the lower “manifested” numbers (Hexad through Ennead) are different experiences, then it means that we’ve only experienced half of each system by going through it only once.  So, to be a completionist and perfectionist about this, we’d need to go through the Gnosis Schema twice:

  1. Manifesting Hot System
    1. Mercury
    2. Jupiter
    3. Mars
    4. Sun
    5. Mercury
  2. Manifested Cold System
    1. Mercury
    2. Moon
    3. Saturn
    4. Venus
    5. Mercury
  3. Manifesting Cosmic System
    1. Mercury
    2. Fixed Stars
    3. The One
    4. Earth
    5. Mercury
  4. Manifested Hot System
    1. Mercury
    2. Jupiter
    3. Mars
    4. Sun
    5. Mercury
  5. Manifesting Cold System
    1. Mercury
    2. Moon
    3. Saturn
    4. Venus
    5. Mercury
  6. Manifested Cosmic System
    1. Mercury
    2. Fixed Stars
    3. The One
    4. Earth
    5. Mercury

In this way, we get to experience both a manifesting and manifested version of each system, going through both the yin/yang, masculine/feminine, active/passive aspects of each force in turn.  The first pass through the Gnosis Schema has us go through the manifesting/yang/masculine/active Hot system, composed of active and hot sphairai, then through the manifested/yin/feminine/passive Cold system, composed of passive and cold sphairai, and then through the manifesting Cosmic system so as to bring about divinity in our lives and worlds.  However, this is only half the equation for a complete experience of everything.  We would then need to undergo, maybe even “undo”, what we’ve done by continuing on the paths: we’d then undergo the manifested Hot system, then the manifesting Cold system, then the manifested Cosmic system so as to complete the process, and allow the divinity we’ve accomplished to become fully realized both within, through, and by us.

I make this sound like going through the Gnosis Path once is pointless until you do it a second time, but it’s not.  As we complete one iteration of the Gnosis Schema, we have gone through the ten states of the cosmos, the ten sphairai of the Tetractys, and have brought about completion.  However, in doing so, we prepare ourselves by this very completion to continue along this path in another, more natural, more intuitive way.  It’s akin to what’s said about one attaining K&CHGA in modern Western traditions: once you are under the tutelage of your Holy Guardian Angel, you complete your initiatory phase and begin your actual Work, since your HGA would lead you henceforth as teacher and tutor.  What happens after that is continuing along the Lightning Path of the Tree of Life, but in different ways above the Veil of Paroketh that mimic what was done below it but in a greater, grander magnitude.

To offer a parallel about this, I propose to think that that the first iteration of one’s trip around the Tetractys on the Gnosis Schema is meant to intentionally manifest one’s paredos or Agathodaimon by undergoing initiation in the three Systems, and the whole cosmos generally.  It is only after that, under the direction of the Agathodaimon, that one allows what was intentionally manifested before outside oneself to naturally manifest within oneself, and vice versa, to the cumulative effect that one not only brings God down into this world (first iteration), but that we become God ourselves in all worlds (second iteration).  I mean, I only propose to think this; I don’t yet claim that that’s what would actually happen, but it’s a useful way to think about it.  If true Gnosis is to be attained, then one must experience both sides of all coins, not just the shinier side; the darker, more hidden side would be impossible to experience without the aid of the divinity we’ve worked to manifest, and to become manifested as divinity ourselves would be even less likely.  If the manifesting and manifested aspects of the Tetractys are different, then going through each of the systems in its different aspect is as important as returning to Mercury after each individual system, since we are ourselves different after each individual process of analysis and synthesis.

Reviewing Old Notes and Looking Into Mirrors

It’s been a hell of a time, guys.  But I survived and now I’m back in the game, though it took me a bit to get rolling again.  Commissions and requests for readings are still closed for the time being, but I hope to get going again with those in July; I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, after nearly going homeless, finishing closing on a house at the knife-edge nick of time, and dealing with internet connection issues for a month, I’ve been getting myself back in order with my life.  Yeah, I’m definitely relishing in the ability to sink some time back into online gaming now that I’m not stuck on half-available mobile internet, but I’m also talking about the Work and all.  Though…honestly, after several months of stress and letting things shift under my feet, a lot is different than where I was a year, or even half a year ago.  My life seems to be picking up around me and taking me for the ride, which is awesome but a challenge to keep up with.  At least, now that I don’t have the threat of homelessness positioned at my neck anymore, my stress levels have dropped precipitously and I can focus on shit again with renewed clarity.

So, yeah.  I bought a house (rather, me and the boy and our friend did).  I have my shrines set up, some already made permanent and some still waiting permanent relocation; I have my altars set up; and I finally, thank heaven and hell, have my computers in an office with no shrines or altars or holy images in it so I can finally look at porn without giving my People a lewd show.  Now that everything’s set up again, I’ve been easing myself back into practice here and there, making offerings to the ancestors and gods, meditation and energy work, and the like.  But…these are all really tiny bits and pieces of things, maintenance-level stuff, without any real initiative.  These aren’t projects, they’re upkeep.  So I decided to get back into the groove with my mathesis work again after dropping the ball, but…

Jesus, do I feel bad for anyone who has to dig through my blog.  I wrote a lot more back in 2014 than I thought.  At least my notes are copious, and they’re helping me to remember who I was and what I was doing back then.  It’s pleasant, though, and long overdue.  Mathesis is something I’ve wanted to keep up, given its novelty and promise that it holds to afford a new way to proceed in theurgy in addition to or instead of the Hermetic Qabbalah.

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_gnosis_paths

So, where was I with this mathesis stuff?

  1. I developed a “cosmic map” using the Tetractys of Pythagoras, augmented with alchemical and astrological concepts to form a set of 10 sphairai and 24 odoi, one for each of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, based on their stoicheic principles.
  2. I developed the Gnostic and Agnostic Schemata to act as two ways one can live life theurgically or atheurgically.
  3. I developed a method for self-initiation onto the Gnostic Schema, and did it.  (The process left a faint but permanent stain on the ceiling of the room in my old house from all the incense.)
  4. I developed a set of protocols for purification, making offerings, and simple meditations on the letters of the Greek alphabet and the Tetractys.
  5. I developed a set of daily practices, but this needs review badly to see what works and how it can be made to work better.

It’s certainly a good start, and it being my baby, it’s what I’m proud of.  But it’s just only a start, and it’s time to get back into the review of everything I wrote before and see how well it stands now, and how well it can continue to stand.

First things first.  What’s the point of using this map of the Tetractys?  What did it get me?  Well, it got me the Gnosis and Agnosis Schemata, the ways of traversing the cosmos in a way that, respectively, provides intimate knowledge of all things in a dangerous but constantly evolving way, or locks one into a cyclical existence that holds one apart and isolated from true knowledge.

Moreso than the Lightning Path of the Tree of Life, the Gnosis Schema of the Tetractys suggests that exploration and constant return is a crucial aspect to this mathesis work.  Sure, there are plenty of ways you can make a one-shot path starting at one sphaira and ending at another while passing through all the others along the way, but the Gnosis Path with its Mitsubishi-logo-esque shape is something of a different beast entirely.  We start at the central sphaira, given to Mercury, and proceed outwards in three loops: the Hot System of Mercury → Jupiter  → Mars → Sun → Mercury, the Cold System of Mercury → Moon → Saturn → Venus → Mercury, and the Cosmic System of Mercury → Fixed Stars → The One → Earth.  The Hot System leads into the Cold System, the Cold into the Cosmic, and the Cosmic into the Hot.  In this way, a full traversal of the Tetractys takes twelve steps, since we arrive in the sphaira of Mercury three times, once at the beginning of each system before we take our thirteenth and final step back into the sphaira of Mercury after the Cosmic System.  A full traversal of a single system takes five steps across four sphairai, starting and ending at the same sphaira of Mercury.

Thus does this Tetractys divide up the whole of the universe into three “realms”, one hot and light and transformative, one cold and dark and preserving, and one balanced and cumulative and whole.  Within each system, we undergo a process of analysis (literally “loosening up”) and synthesis (“putting together”), as we begin at the sphaira of Mercury, work our way out to the extreme sphaira, then work our way back inward to Mercury once more.  Each system reflects a complete alchemical process, and the three systems combined reflect the entire Great Work, the Magnum Opus.  That said, just because we complete one full loop around the Tetractys doesn’t mean we’re done with the whole thing; it’s an explicitly iterative, repetitive process, but each time around is never the same.

Consider this another way: to go from the Monad to the Decad, we simply count the numbers from 1 to 10.  Trivial, right?  So it is in Greek numerals, where we go from Α (alpha = 1) to Ι (iota = 10).  What comes next?  the next letter is Κ (kappa), which is given the value of 20.  Thus, to use the Greek alphabet as numerals, we go from 1 to 9, then from 10 to 90, then from 100 to 900.  Even using numerology, though, 100 and 10 are simply higher “registers” with a core “heart” of 1.  In other words, even if we go from 1 to 9, 10 to 90, 100 to 900, 1000 to 9000, or however many more powers of ten we want to use, we’re still going around the same cycle over and over.  That cycle is the progression from the Monad to the Decad, but since the Decad is just a higher register of the Monad, we’re starting the process anew each time we complete it.

The Gnosis Schema suggests…nay, demands that we constantly keep in motion around the Tetractys in this way.  We never stop, except to process according to analysis and synthesis (or, to use the more standard alchemical phrase, solve et coagula), which themselves take place along the path.  As the philosopher Heraclitus says, παντα ρει, “everything flows“.  Moreover, as energy in the body or waters in a river, it is good for us to flow ever onward, directly and smoothly, never breaking course or getting stopped or split.  This is why the Gnosis Schema is preferred to the Agnosis Schema; not only does the Agnosis Schema cut one off from the three extreme and one central sphairai, but the paths in this schema cycle around in multiple, chaotic, and confusing ways.  Sure, you might always be in motion, but you’d be in erratic motion, bumping into sphairai randomly without guidance, swept along by the whimsy of fate and the gods with no say in your own growth.

I may have performed the work to open the gate to cross into the sphaira of Mercury, but this is only one step along the path, and it itself is not without its dangers.  The sphaira of Mercury can act as a bridge, but it can also act as island, and the process of getting to even this sphaira can be akin to crossing an abyss of sorts.  Maybe the whole string of nonsense that’s gone on since that self-initiation has been following the path of the Gnosis Schema and the resulting BS in my life my own analysis and synthesis among the sphairai, maybe not (which is the more likely of the two).  Either way, it’s about time for me to revisit my place in the Tetractys, and to get back to that center sphaira and start taking the steps I should’ve been taking this whole time.

Also, perhaps in the process of all this, maybe it’s good to come up with names for the sphairai besides saying things like “sphaira of Mercury” or “the Tetrad” or whatnot.  It’s a little odd to refer to them specifically as astrological spheres or alchemical states of being, despite that they work for now.  Perhaps it’s time for me to revisit the meanings of each of the numbers from the Monad to the Decad, and see where that leads me.

On Sounds and Silences

In preparation for some more mathetic exploration, I took another look at the Tetractys and how I want to approach the exploration of paths.  To refresh your memory, dear reader, this is my version of the Tetractys, a kind of Pythagorean “Tree of Life”, with Greek letters forming the 24 οδοι between the ten σφαιραι that collectively compromise the ten Hermetic realms.

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_gnosis_paths

Any particular path will connect two particular spheres.  As mentioned an age ago, I separated out the 24 paths into two sets of twelve paths: the Gnosis Schema and the Agnosis Schema.  The Gnosis Schema connects all ten spheres in a cyclical manner, starting with the Sphere of Mercury and returning back to it multiple times.  We start at Mercury, continue down to Jupiter, then to Mars, then to the Sun, then back to Mercury, then to the Moon, and so forth.  This was the foundation for the assignment of letters to these paths, and each path in this order has the letter that corresponds to each of the twelve Zodiac signs.

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths_circuit1

Having the letters for the paths is good, since given we have several techniques to meditate on the power of individual letters.  However, even if we have means to access the powers of the paths, what might I do to access the powers of the spheres themselves in a similar fashion?  The paths lead to the spheres, but how do I embrace the spheres?  My instinct would be to use meditation on the seven vowels that correspond to the seven planets, but that only works for the lower seven of the spheres that correspond to the seven planets.

In the subfield of linguistics known as phonology, there are different ways to categorize a vowel.  A vowel can be produced in the front, middle, or back of the mouth; it can be produced with the tongue elevated or lowered; it can be produced with the lips rounded or unrounded.  A specific diagram is often used, known as the vowel trapezium, that illustrates the different vowels used for a given language, such as the one below for standard Californian English.  The more to the left a vowel is, the closer the tongue is towards the front; the more to the right, the closer the tongue is towards the back; the higher, the more closed the mouth is; the lower, the more open the mouth is.

California_English_vowel_chart.svg

Using Ancient Greek phonology, which is what I prefer for ritual, the resulting scheme that demonstrates (roughly, per Wikipedia) what the vowel qualities are for the seven Greek vowels:

Front Back
unrounded rounded
Close Ι Υ
Close-mid Ο
Middle Ε
Open-mid Η Ω
Open Α

Take a look at how these vowels are associated with the planets on the Tetractys.  We’ve previously grouped the ten spheres into three groups: the Hot Initiatory Cycle (Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, Sun), the Cold Initiatory Cycle (Mercury, Moon, Saturn, Venus), and the Cosmic Initiatory Cycle (Mercury, Stars, Monad, Earth).  If we look at the Hot and Cold cycles, we can separate the vowels like this:

  • Hot: Ε, Υ, Ο, Ι
  • Cold: Ε, Α, Ω, Η

The Hot vowels are all middle-to-closed vowels (formed by the tongue in the middle of the mouth raised upward to the roof), while the Cold vowels are all middle-to-open (formed by the tongue in the middle of the mouth lowered down to the floor).  The vowel Ε, representing Mercury in the middle of the Tetractys, is fittingly part of both cycles as well as the only true middle or neutral vowel formed in the mouth.  Additionally, the most extreme closed vowel is Ι, representing the Sun which “descends” into Jupiter and Mars according to the Tetractys, and the most extreme open vowel is Α, representing the Moon which “descends” into Saturn and Venus.  Ε, the vowel of Mercury, “descends” into Venus and Jupiter, the vowels of which are less extreme and more moderated in the mouth than the vowels of Saturn and Mars.  The sync between the vowel qualities and the placement of the spheres of heaven on the Tetractys forms a neat little match.

This leaves three spheres that have no such sounds for the heavens: the Fixed Stars, the Earth, and the Monad.  These are the spheres that comprise the Cosmic cycle, which stars with Mercury and thus the vowel Ε, but there are no vowels for these last three spheres.  I’m still wrapping my head around this, and this is all as yet purely theoretical, but it would make sense that these spheres have no sound.  These are spheres of silence, but they’re different spheres, and thus should have different resonances, different “sounds” of silence.  Silence is a simple word, but like the word “love”, I think that it would be fitting to think of different kinds of silence that the word itself may not clearly delineate.  Bear with me a bit through this.

The sphere of the Earth (leading up to Mercury) is the sphere of terrestrial, pregnant silence.  This is the tension in the air you feel before a conversation, the feeling of blood pulsing through your veins, the breath entering in and exiting from the lungs, the whisper of wind coursing through the skies, the currents of water under the ocean, the flame combusting on clean fuel.  This is the silence that is an absence of communication but is always surrounded and punctuated by it.  This is the silence you hear everywhere there is life, the silence of potential, the silence of worldly presence without which there cannot be action.  This is the silence that gives way to speech and necessitates it in order to be produced again.  This is the silence of the womb whence we come and the silence of the tomb whither we go.

The sphere of the Stars (leading away from Mercury) is the sphere of heavenly, holy silence.  This is the Hymns of Silence, the infinite chorus sung outside the hearing of those who live, the deafening silence that ascends and descends that backs up all cosmic travel and all magical work, the sound behind any sound.  This is the silence of communion, of ritual, of connection without bodies.  This is the silence of activity, the silence of divine power, the silence of initiation.  This is the silence that precludes the need for sound and overrides any song sung, tale told, or speech spoken.  This is the eternal silence underlying all things that exist, both sounding-board and root of sound for all that becomes, all that is, all that was, and all that might be.

One way to think of the difference between these two kinds of silence is to reflect upon how we recognize something meant when we hear it.  When we hear a word we understand, we have the spoken sound of it, but then we also have the known meaning of it.  We cannot directly hear meaning, but it is borne into us by the sound of the word.  The meaning is always forever in our mind, even if it is not always at the forefront of our minds; conversely, the sound can always be made, but is not the only sound we make nor is it a sound that continues forever.  A meaning cannot be communicated to another without it being spoken aloud, and a word that is not understood does not communicate meaning.  In this case, meaning is like the silence of the Stars: it is always there, but must be known before being understood or used in any way; likewise, word is like the silence of the Earth: it must be made, though it cannot be made forever without something else interrupting it, and it can only be made once per instance.

That just leaves the silence of the Monad.

The sphere of the Monad (between the spheres of the Stars and of the Earth) is…well, this is a little tricky.  This is a silence beyond silence.  This is a place beyond places.  This is a sound beyond sounds.  And it is none of these things.  The Monad is, in a word, God, beyond all duality and all manifestation, beyond all potential and all action.  This silence is ineffable, the holy presence itself that contains all information intelligible and unintelligible, all knowledge knowable and unknowable.  This is the place from which sounds and silences both come.  This is a thing beyond understanding, describing, or talking, so perhaps it is best to keep my own silence on this matter.

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.

A Division of Studies in Mathesis

Based on the revamp of the Tetractys of Life with all its newly relettered paths, I had a thought about what the differentiation of forces between the Gnosis Schema (paths associated with the zodiac signs) and the Agnosis Schema (paths associated with the elements and planets) would mean.  From the post redoing the lettering of the paths, I commented that:

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

In other words, we should only make the leap from Agnosis to Gnosis once we understand what it is we’re dealing with.  In order to fully be able to reap the benefits of the powers of the zodiacal paths and make the trips from sphaira to sphaira, we need to already have the powers of the elements and planets supporting us in a way that we control them and not the other way around, or at least on such a level where we’re at least equals with their forces.  This is no easy task; it took me several years of conjuration of the elements and planets, scrying and harmonizing and understanding the forces, before I even dared attempt a conjuration of the angel of the fixed stars to gain a glimpse into that sphere.  Without the planetary and elemental work behind me, I could not have been able to successfully parse together the new information and power I received, as well as understanding how it manifests through all the lower forces.

In that sense, perhaps this jump into scrying the odoi (paths) and sphairai (spheres) on the Tetractys isn’t meant as an introductory or novice activity.  In fact, if I were to teach mathesis as a lineage or as a school of occultism, the division between the powers of the Agnosis Schema and those of the Gnosis Schema suggest an outer circle and inner circle of students.  The outer circle would be those who have not yet made the jump from Agnosis to Gnosis, still remaining in the paths of the elements and planets.  They would be focusing on rudimentary magical skills, understanding the basics of divination and conjuration, understanding the spirits of this world in all their forms, education on the various forces of the cosmos and how to work with them, and the like.  All this would prepare them for the real work of the Gnosis Schema, the theurgy and ascension and subtle powers that they can only really understand after they have all the basics down.

In some ways, it’s a lot like martial art training.  Sure, you start with a white belt and proceed up the ranks to a black belt, and from the perception of non-black-belted people, getting your black belt is like a crowning achievement.  It is huge and a notable thing to obtain, don’t get me wrong, but it’s certainly not the be-all-end-all of the work.  In fact, all the training and testing leading up to the black belt is mere preparation; with the black belt, you finally become a real student and the real education begins, but only once you get that first rank in being a black belt.  In a similar way, being in the outer circle focused on the powers of the Agnosis Schema is a lot like working towards your black belt, just trying to learn the basic moves and motions that allow you to do more complex and natural motions and forms later on.  The initiation into the Gnosis Schema is like being presented with the black belt, but only the first degree of it; the real meat of mathesis lies in the Gnosis Schema, where the more profound power and knowledge lies.

Sure, you might have that black belt, but how good of a black belt are you?  As a black belt in a martial art, there’s always more training to do, more perfection of techniques, more refinement of motion, more fluidity and grace to be developed.  There truly is no end, and even the founder of a martial art themselves will constantly practice.  Hell, even the Buddha Shakyamuni was constantly in meditation after he achieved nirvana; yes, he was enlightened completely and utterly, but he still felt the need to meditate.  Even though he had attained the end of samsara and dependent arising, he still meditated.  Why?  Because there’s always more Work to do; he still needed better ways to teach, more things to delve into, more things to know beyond knowing or not knowing.  Even in his death and passing into paranirvana, the Buddha is thought of to have gone past all going-past into a state of gods-know-what.  It’s not an ending.  There’s never an ending.

Likewise, the process of going through the Gnosis Schema is cyclical.  You might have made one complete circuit around the Gnosis Schema, or you might have made a hundred; that hundred-first time can still get you more power, more knowledge, more gnosis that you didn’t get the first hundred times around.  And this isn’t limited to the schemata of mathetic theurgy, either; even in qabbalah with the Tree of Life, once you attained Ipsissimus and reached the sephirah of Kether, you could either keep going up into the Infinite Light and discovering more of the Infinite, or you could bring that light back down to Malkuth and start the process all over again.  It’s cyclical.  There is never truly an ending, neither in qabbalah nor in mathesis, neither in martial arts nor spiritual arts.  Trying to ascend to the gods or to the Divine Source itself is the most important and gravest undertaking, and to try to attempt it while alive is even more difficult.

So, if (on the off, distant, and unlikely chance) I were to start up a school that could teach people magic and the occult, let’s say I call it the Disciples of Hermes, or simply the Mathetai (from the Greek phrase οι Μαθηται του Ερμου, hoi Mathetai tou Hermou).  The mathetai, collectively, are those who study the occult science and philosophy under the overarching framework of mathesis.  I might actually divide it into three circles, not just two, based on the topic of study and where they are in relation to the schemata of the Tetractys, along with an extra division for people who aren’t involved at all:

  • The Agnostai (οι Αγνωσται, lit. “the unknowing”, sing. agnostes) are those who aren’t involved in mathesis, the occult, religion, or spirituality generally.  They’re on their own and are outside the reach and teachings of the Mathetai, either willingly or circumstantially, and are not initiated or educated in any sense of mathesis.
  • The Hypognostai (οι Υπογνωσται, lit. “those who are under knowledge”, sing. hypognostes) are those who have begun studying magic and the occult generally.  The focus here would be on an understanding of basic occult philosophy, the forces, spirits, and how to work with all of the above.  This covers all the basics, from conjuration of spirits and proper worship of gods to talismany and divination.  Basic meditation and prayer work would be taught as well, but only as a simple practice in simple ways to help the development of the Hypognostai in their other studies.  In this stage, one is still on the Agnosis Schema, but they begin their awareness of being caught up in it despite being prohibited from being taught about the schemata or deeper mysteries of the Tetractys.  Most of the material here can be taught from books, prepared documents, and demonstrations, usually under the direction of a teacher or more advanced student.
  • The Epignostai (οι Επιγνωσται, lit. “those who are approaching knowledge”, sing. epignostes) are those who have shown enough skill with the skills of the Hypognostai and have begun the process of synthesis and analysis (putting together and taking apart) in order to reform themselves into a proper stage of purity and self-awareness.  The focus here is on developing the skills of meditation and prayer and using them to continue the mastery of the skills of the Hypognostai, as well as developing them for their own sake to develop a firmer mastery of the mind and body itself.  Although still on the Agnosis Schema, the stage of epignosis is the process of forming the bridge from the middling sphairai around that of Mercury so as to begin the process of gnosis itself.  At the end of this stage, when the epignostes is ready, they are prepared for initiation into the Gnostai and the process of traveling the Gnosis Schema.  This stage is marked by more intense oral and practical teaching and less on books, although some research may be required for more difficult refinement of the skills of the Hypognostai.
  • The Gnostai (οι Γνωσται, lit. “the knowing”, sing. gnostes) are the ones who have entered into the mysteries of the Gnosis, having demonstrated enough mastery of the skills of the Hypognostai and Epignostai to be fit to travel along the Gnosis Schema with or without guidance.  A special connection between them and the gods, as well as of the Monad, is forged and they are allowed to penetrate into the deepest mysteries of the Tetractys.  Deeper meditation, theurgic rituals, and astral travel and inhabitation of the gods within the body is explored as well as to begin teaching other mathetai, as well as other mysteries that would never be told to anyone who hadn’t already attained a particular level of spiritual development and growth.

In a sense, the three circles are modeled after the “three parts of wisdom” as described by Hermes Trismegistus in the Emerald Tablet: the three sciences of alchemy, astrology, and theurgy.  In this instance, the science of alchemy would be given to the Hypognostai through the transformation of lower materials into higher ones, either metaphorically or actively; the science of astrology would be given to the Epignostai, who must understand the connections between above and below in order to ascend between and around the worlds while harnessing their power; the science of theurgy would be given to the Gnostai, who work towards the Source and Divinity itself by building upon both astrology and alchemy.  In a sense, though, alchemy is also given to the Gnostai, since the twelve signs of the zodiac (and, correspondingly, the twelve paths on the Gnosis Schema) are associated with twelve common processes of alchemy, and thus the cycle begins anew.  Being inducted into the Gnostai, after all, is by no means the end of the journey, but truly the start; everything before that is just preparation.

While there’d be no formal levels beyond that of the Gnostai (though a fifth and hypothetical circle could be proposed, the Metagnostai, those who are beyond knowledge, could be set up for divine or heroic entities who guide and nurture the school as a whole akin to the Secret Chiefs of the Golden Dawn), I’m sure it might arise that there’d be an Archegnostes (ο Αρχεγνωστης), a “first gnostes” or teacher of teachers in the Mathetai, or the Aristognostai (οι Αριστογνωσται), the “best gnostai” or council of senior gnostai who govern and instruct the school as a whole, both in terms of judging the capabilities of particular students as well as organizing teaching and management for the school.  Of course, parts of these responsibilities might be delegated to the Epignostai, but the teachers (bless their hearts) have to both manage spiritual and worldly responsibilities with this.

Of course, I’m letting my imagination run freer than a tabletop RPG gamer drawing up a new character sheet just before a campaign.  Mathesis is still brand new and largely unexplored as a magical system, I’m still barely into my own practice generally and mathetically, and here I am already planning on not just taking a few students but setting up a whole school for it.  I have plenty on my plate before I even try to attempt any of this sort of dissemination of wisdom to the world who so badly needs it, but at the same time, who can say what’ll happen but the gods?  Maybe in another ten or twenty years or so, secret societies and orders will be a thing again, and maybe I’ll have just enough under my belt to actually start helping others in studying this.