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.

Search Term Shoot Back, October 2014

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of October 2014.

“the ‘talisman’ used in the ritual. your name will be written 9x around the diagram using your own blood.” — I don’t know of any such talisman that requires instructions like this, though depending on the size of the talisman, I will say that that would appear to be a significant amount of blood.  When using blood in ink, especially your own, I suggest taking a few drops (maybe a certain number of drops depending on planetary hours, qabbalistic symbolism, or the like) and mixing it into dragon’s blood ink or some other sacred ink you have prepared.  That way, you don’t go dizzy from losing too much blood, and you can buff out the potency of blood with particular herbs.  Just be careful when you tap yourself for blood: be clean, use sterilized needles or blades (preferably non-reusable and disposed of in a sharps bin), be careful that you don’t cut on an artery,sanitize the area to bleed from first, clean up afterwards, use a fresh bandage, aim carefully with the blood, and the like.  And, given that the ink and the talisman has your own blood on it, be very careful that you don’t lose the stuff; you don’t want others to get ahold of your own bodily fluids, after all.

“things to ask a geomancer” — Putting my geomancer hat on for a second, well, what do you want to know?  Geomancy is a pretty awesome divination system that I’ve been practicing for years, and it’s helped me countless times in my work and spiritual development.  In my opinion, however, geomancy is best for queries that are clear (no confusion or ambiguity), concise (pared down to the fewest words needed), and concrete (about a single actionable topic that isn’t abstract), and ideally can be answered in a binary sense (yes/no, should/shouldn’t, etc.).  Beyond that, ask whatever you want.

“making natron for egypt project with baking soda and washing powder?” — I actually wrote about this waaaaay back when, when I was just starting to get involved with Hermetic magic.  If it’s any indication, this was when my blog was still hosted on Blogspot.  So, natron is this nifty powder that’s like supersalt and can be used for embalming, desiccation, and making protective circles, and it’s formed from a mixture of sodium chloride (salt), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and sodium carbonate (washing soda).  While salt and baking soda are easy to find, it can be a little more difficult to find washing soda in your local supermarket, and isn’t strictly necessary if you can’t find it.  I make natron (I’ve really only made the one batch, since I use so little of it) by crushing all the dry parts up into a fine powder and mix it well.  You could make a solution out of them in water and dry it out, but natron is so absorbent that you’d need to use an already spotless pan to hold it in and put it in the oven on high for a week; leaving it out in the open would just keep the natron moist since it’d absorb moisture from the ambient air, and in my humid house where we grow carnivorous plants, that ain’t gonna work.  I just suggest grinding it to a fine powder and storing it in an airtight jar.

“ghost rituals” — Yes, I’m sure there are occultist ghosts who have free time just like I do, and I’m sure they have their own rituals and ceremonies.  I don’t know what they are, however.  I might ask my ancestors to see what they’re up to in the afterlife, maybe get some advice from them in my own works.

“best planetary hours for working out” — It’s true, you can use planetary hours to time pretty much anything to get more out of it.  For working out, exercising, and physical training generally, I’d go with hours of Mars and hours of the Sun, which should get you three or four windows of 45 minutes to 2.5 hours a day, depending on where you live and what time of year it is.  However, some of these hours are at ungodly o’ clock in the morning or really late in the evening, so you may not be able to get to a gym or it may not be safe to go outside during some of these hours.  To be honest, the best time for working out is an hour you set each day every day and get into a routine of it.  You don’t need magic for physical goals like this, though it can certainly help.  Don’t let timing factors influence your goals for a healthier, fit life.

“is barachiel archangel recognized in the catholic church” — Alas, not anymore.  Back in 2002, the Vatican banned all veneration of any angel not named in the Bible, i.e. any angel that wasn’t Michael, Gabriel, or Raphael.  Any other named angel, they claim, could lead to deviation from Catholic doctrine and too permissive of “new age spiritual practices”.  This isn’t new for them; back in the eighth century, Pope Zachary banned the veneration of Uriel on the grounds that the angel did not exist, because he wasn’t mentioned in the Bible, either.  Now, this only applies to the Catholic church; the Orthodox church has a much more permissive view on angels, and in fact venerates seven archangels.  Of course, the names and functions of those archangels may not always coincide with those popularly known, but whatever.

“can we place organite and a crystal grid by each other” — I mean, you can, but given how I consider orgonite (note the proper spelling) to be worth less than a well-timed dump, I don’t think putting a chunk of the crap near a crystal grid would do much.  You can involve the orgonite into the crystal grid, sure, but at that point, why not just use a lump of peat coal or of simple quartz instead?  To be honest, if I knew that putting orgonite and crystal grids near each other could cause some sort of violently explosive reaction, I’d be hawking that shit all over the place in the hopes that nobody would be googling for orgonite ever again.

“petition an angel using his seal” — While the most recommended use of an angelic seal is to conjure the angel, you don’t need to straight-up call them down into a crystal and converse with them and charge them with an action if you don’t want to go that far.  You might adopt something like what the Queen of Pentacles does with “goetic conjurework”, by drawing out the seal of the angel on both sides of a piece of paper, writing the name of the angel on one side and your petition on the other, then lighting an appropriately-dressed candle on top of that.  Alternatively, you could use the seal of the angel as a focus for meditation to attune yourself to them and allow for a slow-growth, natural form of contact to eventually come to you.  Be aware that, in Hermetic theory, the symbol of a spirit is, in a sense, the presence of the spirit; the spirit is where the seal is, so wherever the angelic seal is drawn, so too will the angel be.

“pompeii penis sandals” — To be fair, if you look at any Roman archaeological site and especially Pompeii, you’ll note that the ancients loved them some good ol’ fashioned phalluses.  An erect penis, no less, was the standard shingle for any brothel back in the day; charms to ward off the evil eye were often in the form of flying penises (some with a penis of its own!); anything from oil lamps to gambling tokens to warning signs were ithyphallic in nature.  That said, I’ve never heard of “penis sandals” before from a Roman culture, much less one from Pompeii, and some googling of my own isn’t helping.  So, uh, sorry.

“the japanese alphabet that they use nowadays in English” — They don’t use Japanese writing in English.  We use the English writing system (a derivative of the Roman system) for English.  That’s why it’s, you know, called English.  Japanese, on the other hand, uses the Japanese writing system, and it’s used for a handful of other languages, such as Ainu and Ryukuan, all of which are Japonic in nature, but none of which are found outside the Japanese archipelago.  Now, if you’re wondering what Japanese writing is and how it works, first note that it’s not an alphabet, and that alphabets are not synonymous with writing systems generally.  Second, Omniglot is your friend when you have questions about writing systems.  Third, Japanese writing is actually composed of three separate systems: a syllabary used for native Japanese speech, a syllabary used for onomatopoeia and foreign words, and a system of Chinese and Chinese-derived characters.

“best florida water to bless my house” — Surprisingly enough, there are numerous different brands of Florida Water out there.  By far the most common and the most popular is Murray & Lanman, which you can usually find in any botanica, though botanicas will often have lesser-quality brandless or store-brand types available as well.  Oddly, Florida Water is also popular in China, and I’ve been able to find a few bottles of the stuff in some places in the DC Chinatown area, but ohmigawd they’re shitfully terribad and smell like baby powder and rotten fruit, specifically the Butterfly and Liushen brands (at least in my honest opinion).  Of course, my friends and I make our own Florida Water, and you can find my recipe on this older post of mine.  My other friend uses a bit of laundry blueing and more lemongrass, so his Florida Water smells like Fruit Loops and is delicious, and a tad closer to the Murray & Lanman stuff, though ours are still distinctly different from the brand name.  All the same, Florida Water is an amazing eau de cologne, though I would suggest you mix the stuff with holy water to bless a house properly, if not just use holy water.  Florida Water can help brighten a room or cleanse someone off, but for real blessing, you want real holiness.

“what can i engrave on a blade to be able to slay demons” — Happily enough, you can find out here on the page I made about my ritual sword.  Be aware, though, that slaying demons can be bad for your health, since demons do tend to fight back and are nontrivial to slay.  Besides, what did demons ever do to you?  Don’t be a douchebag.  Talk it out first, maybe share a drink or five over a Circle of Art.  Who knows, maybe some good demon sex could be just what you need!

“hga vs other gods” — Now this is a pretty interesting comparison to make.  Generally speaking, the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA) is not a deity in the traditional sense of the word.  The term itself was coined by Abraham of Worms in his Sacred Magic of Abramelin, although the concept of guardian angels generally goes back to late classical Mediterranean times in Abrahamic traditions, if not much earlier. In the Judeo-Christian scheme, the HGA is definitely not on the same level as God or the Trinity, and is under the ranks of the archangels and the four Holy Living Creatures, to be sure, though whether he belongs to a particular choir is up for debate (though the Ars Paulina would suggest that he’s of a choir no lower than the Powers or the angels of the fifth heaven).  The HGA has sometimes been linked to the Agathos Daimon of the ancient Greeks and the Genius of the Romans, though with a more cosmic or divine purpose than just watching over the well-being of the human they look after.  There is some similarity with the HGA and tutelary deities generally, and these tutelary deities are often called Zeus or Hera, or in Latin Jove and Juno (depending on the gender of the human), but I feel like these are different entities, personally.  To be extraordinarily brief on the subject, the HGA watches over a human and guides them to divinity and their divine purpose, helping them by clearing out obstacles and providing an impetus for action where needed.  Whether that intersects with other gods’ responsibilities is up to the other gods.

“ithyphallic devil” — I’m down to go down on one.

“chaplet of st. chamuel” — So, as I’ve mentioned before, there are lots of different sets of archangels.  The system of seven archangels I use is that of the Orthodox Church: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel (who are common to nearly all sets of seven archangels), as well as the lesser-known Barachiel, Jehudiel, and Sealtiel.  However, in Catholic and Hispanic countries, another set of seven archangels are known, which are described by the Christian author Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite: the same big four as before, but with Jofiel/Jophiel, Zadkiel, and Chamuel/Samuel.  It’s hard to map one set of archangels to another, since their roles tend to differ as well as their names.  However, I did find in one painting at a local botanica the names of the Orthodox angels mapped to those of Pseudo-Dionysus, and in it Chamuel was linked to Barachiel.  Whether this holds up in practice, I’m not sure, but if you’re interested, use my chaplet to Barachiel and see how the angel responds.  I don’t work with the angels of Pseudo-Dionysus, however, so this is up for experimentation.  According to at least one (not entirely) reputable resource, Chamuel is the angel presiding over relationships and all the love and trauma they bear.  This isn’t quite in line with the role of the angel Barachiel, who presides over blessings and bounties, so I’m not sure what a chaplet of St. Chamuel would look like.

“i want to know where you live, what your apartment? how much time do you devote a day of prayer? text” — …wow, creeper.  You don’t get to know that.  I do devote at least an hour a day to prayer and meditation, however, and would prefer to do more if it weren’t for commuting, martial arts practice, sleep, and my office job.  None of which you get to know when and where I do it.

Search Term Shoot Back, June 2014

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of June 2014.

“what does it mean to trace the grid from the center crystal to each other crystal using a wand or your fingers show picture” — …I mean, I feel like the idea is pretty explanatory.  Center to crystal 1 to center to crystal 2…to center.  Do you really need more guidance than this?  You already described the method.

“saint cyprian wand” — I’ve never seen something like this, save for maybe the blasting rod of the Grimoirum Verum that forms part of the Book of Saint Cyprian.  The good saint himself is usually pictured with a crosier and a book, though as a magician himself he was likely familiar with the use of wands in the classical and early medieval Mediterranean.  Heck, his crosier itself could be seen as a type of wand, being associated with wisdom, spiritual authority, and guidance, all attributes commonly given to the wand.  Still, a modern wand for use in Cyprianic workings isn’t a bad idea.  Necromantic materials would be of use: an ebony or iron wand packed with graveyard dirt and capped with smoky quartz or jet, engraved with holy symbols and names, perhaps buried for a week at the head of the grave of a priest or magician during the New Moon, fed with the blood of a black chicken or goat.  Not a bad idea at all.

“how to use saturn seals in “key of Solomon”” — If you merely read the book (book I, chapter 19), many sections tell you how to use it.  Generally, you show a pentacle unto a particular spirit like how the FBI flashes a suspect their badge (Saturn pentacles I, II, III, IV, V).  Some of them cause some change in the world by their mere existence and construction and should be kept for future use as a ritual tool, similar to a wand but used to “fire off” work into the cosmos generally (pentacles II, IV, VI, VII).  When a pentacle is not being used, it should be kept hidden and safe, or it should be enshrined on an altar with other magical tools, perhaps reconsecrated every week or so with candle and oil and incense.

“stones in sash black magic santeria” — …do people still consider Santeria to be “black magic”?  Really?  It means “way of the saints”.  It’s about as far you can get from “black magic”, and I’ve written about my thoughts on the term itself elsewhere.  As far as I’m aware, Santeria doesn’t really use sashes, though I’ve seen some massive elekes and collares that are used in limited ritual purposes, but those are all nearly entirely colored glass beads.  Also, I’ve seen sashes of fruit for newly made iyawos.  Beyond that, I can’t think of a Santeria sash, though I’m admittedly no expert in Santeria.  Sashes are sometimes used in other traditions, like the bandera of Palo Mayombe, but that’s a different thing and, again, is nearly entirely glass beads.  Stones might just be a personal flourish.

“h0w t0 consecrate oil with psalm 72” — I wasn’t familiar with this psalm before I wrote this post, but I like it!  Take some good, clean oil and pray over it fervently; that’s all you need to do to consecrate anything, really; the incense, candles, and hoopla of ritual can help but aren’t strictly necessary.  Psalm 72, specifically, sounds beautiful for blessing, dominating, and prosperity work.

“top 10 conjuring rituals real” — What, as if there’s a Buzzfeed list of magic rituals full of spooky GIFs?  C’mon, dude, get your act together.  There’s no such top-ten list of “real” rituals; any ritual that works is real, and different people often get different rituals to work for them.  Once you get the experience of a few conjuration rituals, you can start doing them on the fly with spirits you have a good connection with.

“seal of sealtiel angel” — Unfortunately, even though I’ve been making weekly offerings to Sealtiel the Archangel for a brief time now, I haven’t done much more than that and engaged the archangels in conversation, like I would in a conjuration.  I mean to in the near future, but I haven’t yet.  I don’t know of a seal for the angel, so you might want to stick with making a sigil based off the letters in his name a la chaos magic or by using my Greek Sigil Wheel idea.  Sealtiel often bears a thurible as his badge of office, so you might start with that if you want an image.

“how to use saturn to create prosperity” — Er, that’s not usually Saturn’s job.  Prosperity is usually in line with Mercury and Jupiter, the planets of exchange and expansion generally,

“autobiography of st. jehudiel”, “biography of saint sealtiel”, etc. — Seeing how these are angels who have never technically lived, it’s hard to have a biography of them, since a biography is an account of, you know, a life.  They’re immortal beings who serve the will of God directly; they don’t have lives like we think of them, and they don’t exist apart from God.  Also, an “autobiography”?  Not only does that assume a life of an angel, it also assumes they write and can communicate to us in language.

“horus demon god of sun sygils” — Much of this makes no sense to me on a conceptual level.  First, to spell the word as “sygils” means you’re probably in Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth (or however it’s misspelled) or just some middle-schooler who wants to be all dark and powerful.  That isn’t done with extra “y”s and the metal umlaut, you know.  As for Horus, yes, he’s a god of the Sun, but in no sense is he malefic or demonic.

“locating lost thing by star power” — What, are you Sailor Moon?  There are astrological and geomantic methods of finding lost objects, but unless you’re a Sailor Scout or one of the Three Wise Men, you’re not going to find anything directly through the stars themselves.

“most deadly buddhist mantras” — …I don’t think you understand the point of Buddhist mantras.  There might indeed be powerful spells and mantra-like charms in some distant and extant traditions of magic and applied Buddhism, but none I know that would kill a target or the user.  That tends to go against the Precepts, anyway, but you know, expedient means and all that shit.

“effects of reading saint cyprian book” — In my case, you’ll’ve learned Spanish and published a translation in English (hint: go buy my cheap ebook on Etsy!).  Supposedly, if you read the Book of Saint Cyprian, either front to back or back to front (I forget which), you end up summoning the Devil.  That didn’t happen in my case, and he might’ve just gotten confused with my flipping around randomly through the book.

“how to aproach the abramelin ritual if you already know your guardian angel” — Honestly, if you have contact with your HGA, why do the Abramelin ritual?  The meat of the matter is getting contact with your HGA, after which you go through and bind evil spirits from messing with you in the future.  Once you have your HGA, you can do anything, basically.  I know some friends who are going through the Abramelin as an initiation requirement in some groups, but that’s not the real use of the Abramelin, as I see it.

“is the word geomancy in the bible” — Nope.  Geomancy likely kicked off in the Sahara Desert around 900 or 1000 AD, well after the Bible was written (especially the Old Testament).  However, if you read that the Bible has a prohibition on divinatory arts generally, then that would include geomancy; if you read the Bible supporting the act of divination, then that also includes geomancy.  The word itself is coined more recently than the Bible, as is the art, so you won’t find biblical references to it, although some traditions hold that geomancy was given to the prophet Hermes Trismegistus, Adam, Idris, Daniel, Jesus, or Mohamed to discover more of the secrets of God, so it depends on what you consider meaningful.

The Holy Guardian Angel in Religion and Magic

As you might have guessed, dear reader, working with the Holy Guardian Angel is, in fact, a thing.  A pretty big thing, at that.  There’ve been rituals written for thousands of years now on how to come in contact with this spirit, along with plenty of kinda-similar-kinda-dissimilar descriptions on the nature of this spirit.  And, judging by the pan-blogosophere/occulture debates on the nature of the HGA, chances are this topic will continue on for quite a lot longer.  In fact, some magicians go so far as to say that coming in contact with the HGA, also known as Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (KCHGA) is the sum and whole of the Great Work itself.  This isn’t a wrong view, but it’s a little misleading if you don’t inspect all the ramifications of such a statement.

No, I’m not going to talk about how to attain KCHGA, or how to find your HGA’s name, or which ritual is best to come in contact with your HGA.  Yes, I have contact with my own HGA, and I’ve been working with him and involving him at nearly every step of my occult path since I first met him.  What I want to talk about is something that I don’t see often discussed: the relationship and differences in view of the HGA between practitioners of magic and devotees of religion.  The two feed into each other, clearly, and the notion of the HGA itself can easily be attributed to either source or a mixture of both.  It’s the relationship and lack of correctness I’ve noted between what the HGA is claimed to do and how one is supposed to work with the HGA, at least in my own experience, and what the HGA actually does and how one should really work with the HGA.

The term “Holy Guardian Angel” itself can be attributed quite clearly to the Book of Abramelin, but the term was already in use by the Catholic Church, the culture of which helped form and develop the spiritual context for the Abramelin (along with other Solomonic, goetic, and qabbalistic traditions interwoven together).  It’s been canon in the Catholic Church for each human being to have a guardian angel for quite a long while now; there are scriptural hints that this has been a longstanding notion (Matthew 18:10, Acts 12:13-15) since before the development of the proper Church, but it was really codified when Saint Basil in the 4th century wrote that “beside each believer stands an angel protector and shepherd leading him to life” (Adversus Eunomium III, Catechism of the Catholic Church 1.2.1.1.5.1 #336).  Okay, cool; we know that it’s actually a belief that guardian angels exist in Catholicism and, moreover, that its believers are actively encouraged to work with and ask for help from one’s guardian angel.  This is further indicated by the prevalence of medallions, litanies, candles, novenas, and the like dedicated to this divine figure.

However, the perceived goal of the HGA is different between Abramelin and Saint Basil.  In the Abramelin, the text states that “[e]very learned and prudent man may fall if he be not defended and guided by the angel of the Lord, who aided me, and prevented me from falling into such a state of wretchedness, and who led me undeserving from the mire of darkness unto the light of the truth” and later that “[y]e shall also supplicate [God] that in the time to come he may be willing and pleased to regard you with pity and grant you his grace and goodness to send unto you his holy angel, who shall serve unto you as a guide, and lead you ever in his holy way and will; so that ye fall not into sin through inadvertence, through ignorance, or through human frailty”.  Magically, however, Abramelin states that “my holy angel, whom God the most merciful had destined from my creation for my guardian, spake unto me with the greatest goodness and affection; who not only manifested unto me the Veritable Magic, but even made easier for me the means of obtaining it”.  Mathers writes in his own introduction more succinctly that “thereby and thereafter [obtaining knowledge of and conversation with one’s guardian angel] we may obtain the right of using the evil spirits for our servants in all material matters”.  Of course, even the Abramelin alludes to the difficulty in describing the nature of the HGA, perhaps foreshadowing decades of internet-based flame wars: “their angel being by its nature Amphiteron [inaccessible, double?], because the angelic nature differeth to so great an extent from that of men, that no understanding nor science could express or describe it, as regardeth that great purity wherewith [the angels] be invested”.

The thing is that the Abramelin is, above anything else, a work on magic.  The whole 6-month (or 18-month, if you’re reading Dehn’s translation) period of prayer and asceticism is meant to put you in contact with your HGA, after which you work with the HGA to accomplish any and every other type of magic.  In other words, the HGA becomes the only familiar or supernatural assistant one would ever need, able to bind or loosen any other spirit, achieve any task, or obtain any objective.  In this light, Abramelin shares strong similarities with several PGM texts (I.1, I.42, IV.154, VII.505, inter alia).  The general gist is that the magical view of the HGA is to assist you in getting what you want.

This is counter to the standard religious view that the HGA is to lead you to virtue.  After all, probably the two biggest drives for people studying magic are to (a) get paid and (b) get laid, and texts like the PGM, Grand Grimoire, and the like are pretty blatant in saying so, with books like Abramelin and the Keys of Solomon being a little more subtle about it.  What we want to accomplish is not always in line with virtue, if not directly opposed to it.  From this, it might be said that the magical HGA isn’t an angel at all, but a familiar spirit of a lower rank than an angel.  I disagree; after all, it’s a staple in Stoicism, Christianity, and Thelema that you shouldn’t judge what others do, and what might be terrible vice for you can just as easily be blessed virtue for another.  The Abramelin approach to this is to strike a balance between the two: the HGA is to help you achieve what you want, but also to lead you to virtue, so what you want will eventually coincide with what God wants.

From this, it’s easily understandable how Thelema linked True Will with the HGA.  If True Will is what we’re meant to accomplish according to the Divine, then our True Will is the will of God.  Thus, by aligning our will with our True Will, we align our will with God’s will.  It’s still free will and freely chosen, but it’s that alignment that produces true power and true Work.  However, the vessel for knowing and keeping on our path of True Will most easily lies with the HGA compared to other paths, since the HGA is most in tune with our lives specifically and knows our specific needs and wants, and since the HGA leads us to God, he can lead us in a way most effective for ourselves to God.  If I recall correctly, this is likewise why many Golden Dawn lodges have no formal initiations above Adeptus Minor (5=6, corresponding with Thiphareth/Sun), which is associated with KCHGA, since the KCHGA becomes one’s real teacher after that point and the Work they indicate to do becomes proof of one’s real grade.  The HGA will still accomplish nearly anything you ask for, but rather than the HGA changing their nature through your working, the HGA is the catalyst for you changing your own nature through your Work.

This is an element that appears to be lacking to me in religious-devotional methods of working with the HGA, like through novenas or simple prayer.  Without truly needing and aspiring to know and converse with the HGA, it’s extraordinarily rare for one to contact and accomplish anything with them, and the methods involve at a minimum powerful and wholly-concentrated prayer to the point of fanaticism and faith so extreme things become more magical than theological.  Sure, you can obtain the favor and a few helpful nudges after repeated novenas or litanies to the HGA, and they’ll probably throw a sign to you once in a while that you may or may not miss, but for concentrated work and learning, I haven’t found the Catholic prayer stuff nearly as useful to work with the HGA as I have magical methods and involved ritual.  (Then again, Catholic rituals as I would reckon a “ritual” to work with the HGA are few and far between, and I don’t know of anything that powerful besides Mass itself, and I’m not qualified to perform that.)

Despite that I’ve worked with plenty of other angels, the HGA seems to be an angel of a wholly different type than the planetary angels/intelligences/spirits/choirs, and is distinct still from the seven archangels themselves.  I can’t yet discern whether this is a function of him being so close and connected to me, lower than the rest, higher than the rest, an outgrowth of God itself into my life in a discrete form I’d recognize as an angel, or something else entirely; I sense my HGA smirking and snickering as I write this, which I take as a recognition of the futility of this sort of pondering.  What I do know is that the HGA is definitely worked with in a way distinct from any other spirit.  He doesn’t require or feel the need for formal conjurations, nor does he care for chaplets and novenas and candles burned in his honor.  He instructs me to pray, but with a special prayer he helped me write to align myself to the Almighty and not to his specific presence.  He directs and smooths out my work, but has no specific ritual for himself (beyond the Headless Rite, which is how I came to contact him in the first place, but which he’s somewhat distanced himself from since).  He’s distinctly Other, but in a way that makes him not-Other at all.

Personally, I take the HGA, as the Golden Dawn does, as one’s true teacher, but in a farther and in a more ecumenical way.  I claim that once one has true and certain contact with one’s HGA (which is a complicated and hard-to-accomplish thing to begin with), they need no more dogmas or religions or texts beyond that which their HGA directs them to study.  If the HGA is one’s connection to God and one’s true path, then that path becomes their true religion; no other path will do for them, since any other path would divert from their True Will.  In that sense, the HGA can act as one’s personal Christ, or personal God who talks to them, or another emanation of the Divine suited just for them that only they hear, that they need to hear, and that only they need to hear.  As one of my Golden Dawn friends has said in the past, the HGA is a kind of divine sockpuppet, throttling back the infinity of the Almighty into a finite and “easily” understandable form for our finite minds to process and comprehend.  It’s a kind of hilarious metaphor, but it definitely works, and probably works best and most succinctly of any blog post I’ve read or written on the subject.

In that light, I suppose I should reevaluate my earlier evaluation that strictly devotional methods are sub-par compared to magical methods to contact the HGA.  After all, not everyone is suited to magical practice (though I’d like to think they are), and some people should probably stick to the devotional methods and get the most out of them than they would of any set of spiritual practices.  After all, my own HGA would rather me work in more active ways than simple prayer, but that wouldn’t go for everybody’s HGA.  Regardless of whichever path one should be taking to contact their HGA, it’s definitely something everyone should work on, since knowing one’s HGA is equivalent to knowing one’s True Will, which is equivalent to knowing one’s place in the cosmos and in the plan of the Divine; KCHGA in any form is “know thyself”.

Book Review: “The Holy Guardian Angel”, ed. Michael Cecchetelli

As you may already have heard elsewhere on the blogosphere, dear reader, there’s a new book out on one of the most central and confusing parts of modern Western Hermetic magic: the Holy Guardian Angel.  Michael Cecchetelli of The Lion’s Den, author of Crossed Keys and The Book of Abrasax, recently approved the final proof of his most recent book “Holy Guardian Angel: On the Practice and Experience of the Holy Guardian Angel” and it’s on its way to the printer with Nephilim Press.  With 10 authors contributing, including amongst others Jason Miller, Conjureman Ali, Scott Michael Stenwick, Aaron Leitch, Frater Ashen Chassan, and my own mentor Frater Rufus Opus, the book is one I’ve personally been waiting for for some time now. Happily, Fr. MC himself posted a call for reviewers, and after sending the good man an email, he sent me a copy of the text for my own review!  To say that I’m honored is an understatement.

I personally made contact with my HGA back in the summer of 2012, about the time when I was consecrating my Solomonic Ring and was undergoing a large amount of time doing solar work in addition to the Headless Rite at least once daily.  I made some allusions to it before, but never formally talked about making contact with my HGA or talked at length about my HGA’s nature.  Partially, that’s because I’ve been busy with other parts of my ritual work done or finishing up other projects, and in my life that’s already pretty busy to begin with, this is no trivial matter.  I haven’t done as much introspection and inspection of my HGA that I probably should have by now, and I admit that the feeling I get between us may be strong but is also somewhat distant.  That said, since having made contact with my HGA, he has never ignored me or abandoned me; that connection, though it may be distant and small, has never been weak or forsaken.  I’ve spoken with other magicians in my circle of friends about the nature of the HGA, with one of the best/most comical ideas being that the HGA is akin to a “divine sockpuppet”, throttling back the incomprehensible majesty of the Source into a single comprehensible figure for our individual selves, something like a personal Christ figure, but this might be more properly be considered akin to an agathodaimon or similar tutelary god.  It’s tricky, and during previous blogosphere debates on the HGA, I’ve never thought myself capable of getting enmeshed in them since I don’t really know what to say.  The connection with the HGA is something intensely personal and is truly a revealed mystery, and there’s really so little that can be said about the HGA to begin with.  Those who have contact with the HGA know what it’s like and have little need to talk about it; those without contact have no means to understand what can be said.  Still, even among those who do have contact with the HGA, there’s a lot that can be said about the development, use, and work with the HGA, and that’s what Fr. MC’s new book aims to accomplish.

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The text itself is 216 pages long, beautifully typeset and well-edited, making the reading of it a pleasure all on its own.  The book is broken down into four parts: the nature of the HGA, what comes after contact and how to work with the HGA, different schools of thought about the HGA, and a whole section devoted to some of the important blog posts made during the 2011 pan-blogosphere debates on the HGA.  Of course, MC himself is only one contributing author to the book, and that only in the final section; as he says in the introduction, he “realized no author had set about producing such a volume [on achieving K&CHGA], wherein are presented a diverse and varying cross-section of the beliefs on the subject, was because no single author could”.  It’s a complicated subject with layers upon layers of interpretation, use, and philosophy, making writing such a book on such a spirit more daunting than any other series of tomes on almost any other part of magic.

One theme that’s developed throughout the work is that K&CHGA is not just part of the Great Work, but is in fact the whole of the Great Work itself.  Taken at face-value, that’s kinda a silly statement, and doesn’t make much sense, but on deeper inspection, it becomes abundantly clear.  Many people in the Golden Dawn associate contact with the HGA to start at the grade corresponding to Tiphareth on the Tree of Life (Adeptus Minor); it’s no coincidence that (as far as I’ve heard) there are no formal grades beyond this point beyond what’s directed by one’s HGA alone, though the structure exists for them.  The entire work from this point onward is directed by one’s HGA, who really is our true teacher to understand our True Will.  After a certain point, however, even the HGA disappears when it becomes no longer useful for us, like how a raft is left behind after a journey across a river.  This is why I almost always say that I’ve made “contact” with my HGA instead of “knowledge and conversation”; I have at least partial knowledge of my HGA, sure, but developing the deep connection between us to where there is nothing external to me, becoming one with, within, and as God, the true “conversation” of the HGA, is something I’ll forever be working on.  The HGA, indeed, is a fundamental part of the Great Work, and though Crowley states that “the single supreme ritual is the attainment of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel”, this is a ritual that takes a lifetime to complete.

This theme is developed through the book, that attaining contact with the HGA isn’t a one-time thing.  Even for myself, where I already have contact with my HGA, Fr. MC’s book is packed with good advice from people who have done the Work beyond what they’ve generously written about, and it inspires me with new things I’m eager to try out.  While I don’t see the need at this point to go through the Abramelin operation or redo a six-month stint of daily Headless Rites, that doesn’t mean I completely understand and can do anything with my HGA that I want to do.  You don’t just do the rituals and be done with it, receiving a full spirit guide at your beck and call; it’s the opening to a relationship where you two must work together to understand the Work to be done.  Just as the Sun rising once for one day doesn’t give all the light and energy necessary for the Earth to do everything it needs to do for its predicted 3.7 billion years, it has to rise continuously over and over again, each time going through the nocturnal underworld in order for the Earth and all its life to continue developing, building, and lasting.  Speaking from experience, I can definitely attest to this being the case, but happily this book provides means and new ideas for me to continue working with my own HGA in a big way that I wouldn’t’ve thought of.

Something that I’m totally okay with and agree with as a matter of scope is that the book does not offer much in the way of ritual.  Several authors offer some ritual rubrics and ideas to actually work with the HGA, but these are still rubrics with mostly experiences of use with them and not detailed ritual instructions themselves.  Rather, the book focuses more on “what the HGA can do for you”, and points out that there are so many ways to approach the HGA and many ways to come in contact with it, not just via the Headless Rite or the Abramelin operation.  That’s one of the goals of this book and the overall work of the HGA, too: it really doesn’t matter how you do the work here, so long as you do something.  Fr. MC himself says as much in his final entry: “there is no substitute for experiential knowledge…what is most crucial is to DO”.  The rituals offered within the book are references to those from the PGM, Abramelin, Solomonic-inspired shamanic acts, or Gnostic Ogdoatic methods to work with the HGA, which is saying quite a lot about the background the book offers that it combines all of them near seamlessly into a cohesive text.  What this book is good for is that offers the reader a glance into the experience of those few practicing magicians with actual experience with the HGA, as well as their (wildly divergent but critically useful) thoughts on the spirit.

It’s the combination of authors within “The Holy Guardian Angel” that really gives authority and authenticity to the book.  There’s a lot written about the HGA out there, but very little of it can be trusted (even more than most stuff on magic out there).  Even Fr. MC himself says as much in one of his old blog posts (reproduced in the book as a part of the section on the blogosphere debates):

…of all those who claim they have established “Knowledge and Conversation….”, 70% are lying, 15% have interpreted the aforementioned S.A. or another helpful spirit AS the HGA when in fact it is not and therefore truly believe they HAVE Knowledge and Conversation… etc…, 10% have no contact with any spirit and are under the new age proliferated misconception that contact with spirits evoked comes in the form of “clear messages, like really reeeaallly clear messages in my head” or another such abominable lie.

5%, then, are those who genuinely have made conscious, true contact and have attained what Abramelin and Abraham von Worms call “Knowledge and Conversation of The Holy Guardian Angel”. And thats a liberal number. In the majority of cases, those who are among this 5% and have ascended to this level, will know recognize one another in conversation or when reading each others writing on the subject. This is because the experience of meeting this transcendent being is absofuckinglutely changing, and there are no circumstances under which one having done so could not be utterly, permanently changed.

While I may not agree with the literal percentages of these counts, it hits home when Crowley himself says that “until the Magician has attained to the Knowledge and Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel he is liable to endless deceptions”.  Attaining contact with the HGA is no easy thing, and while it’s no advanced thing either, it takes work and, like any real spiritual endeavor, it changes the entire game of one’s life.  It’s one of the closest parallels the modern Western mystery tradition has to a life-death-rebirth ritual seen in many other spiritual paths, and if you ask anyone who’s undergone that type of ritual, if it was done right then you and everyone around you knows for a goddamn fact it was done right.  Anything else is a lie and there is no substitute for it, either to get others to think you have the contact with this spirit or to get yourself to have contact with this spirit.  That we have such a collection of esteemed magicians who have the experience and scars to show they have the real deal with their corresponding HGAs is a treat for magicians in the modern day, especially since more and more is being written about the HGA by people who may not be anywhere as qualified to talk about it.

Whether you’ve already had contact with your HGA, or even already reached the grade of Ipsissimus in the Golden Dawn, or even are a newcomer to Hermetic magic generally, Fr. MC’s book “The Holy Guardian Angel” is going to be a wealth of information and practice for you.  It’ll give you things to look forward to if you don’t yet have contact with your HGA, and it’ll give you plenty to chew on if you already do (or think you do).  The book is one of the closest things we have to a textbook on working with the HGA especially when paired with things like the Book of Abramelin or Liber Samekh, but it’s also definitely one of the most approachable texts out there.  To see the words and minds of these magicians put together in a single volume on a complicated subject is a treat, both intellectually and spiritually, and definitely a must-have for ceremonial magicians.  Stop by Nephilim Press and place your orders soon!

Ancient Words of Power for the Directions

(Update 1/9/2018: Interested in more about these entities?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

After all this time, I’m finally getting around to reading Michael Cecchetelli’s excellent text the Book of Abrasax, however slowly that might be.  I’m still just getting into the material, but it’s already off to a good start, especially since he starts off with a ritual I already use frequently: the Calling of the Sevenths, also called the heptagram or heptasphere rite.  I use this daily in my morning ritual schema, as well as whenever I need a quick rebalancing and recharging.  What’s interesting is that Cecchetelli adds in a bit after the intonation of the vowels by calling on four barbarous words of power in a manner reminiscent of the LBRP.  It’s interesting, and I like the effect.  It also reminded me of Stephen Flowers’ Hermetic Magic, where he also introduces the heptagram ritual along with a calling of the quarters, but using different words of power and introducing divine images or godforms to associate with the words.  It’s interesting stuff, and I don’t know why I wasn’t using this before.  (Flowers also used these same words to form the working circle of the magus, as shown on the book’s cover).

Flowers’ work is based on the Greek Magical Papyri (specifically here II.104ff, XII.87ff), which forms the basis for the associations of the names and images with the cardinal directions.  Cecchetelli uses a different set of names for the cardinal directions but doesn’t include the images, and I don’t know off the top of my head where he got his associations of the names with the directions from.  Neither text offers associations of names with the depths, the heights, or the center, even though both authors incorporate the names into the heptagram/heptasphere ritual which make use of these three directions.  In my own experiments, I combined these two sets of names by using Flowers’ attribution of the names to the cardinal directions and used the two other names from Cecchetelli’s list for the vertical dimension (with the spelling corrected to conform with the most commonly seen forms of the words).

With all that in mind, my resulting list of associations between names, directions, planets, vowels, and images becomes this:

  1. East: ΕΡΒΗΘ (ERBĒTH).  A winged dragon with a crown of clouds rising above the horizon.
  2. North: ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ (SESENGENBARPHARANGĒS).  An infant child sitting atop a blossoming lotus.
  3. West: ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ (ABLANATHANALBA).  A crocodile with the tail of a snake arising from the waters.
  4. South: ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ (LERTHEXANAX).  A falcon with its wings stretching out to their full wingspan.
  5. Down: ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ (DAMNAMENEUS).  A young maiden looking forward with a torch in her left hand and a spear in her right.
  6. Up: ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ (AKRAMMAKHAMAREI).  An old man looking downward with a ring of keys in his right hand and a staff in his left.

Although the divine images for the cardinal directions came from the PGM via Flowers, no images were given for ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ or ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ; these I came up with based on what was revealed to be after asking the names and the spiritual entities associated with them.  They seem to work well for me, though admittedly aren’t traditional and are influenced by their planetary associations.  I prefer Flowers’ attributions of the names to the directions over Cecchetelli’s mostly because I can find more extant texts with the same or similar words and directions.

Though there are six names given above, there are seven points of the heptagram ritual; the point missing from the above list is the center point.  I reserve this point for my own HGA, using his name as a word of power in its own right and focusing on his appearance as he appears to me.  You might do the same, or reserve it for your patron/matron deity, other agathodaimonic entity, or your own divine Self using your craft name (a la the Headless Rite‘s “I am thy prophet Moses/Ankh-Af-Na-Khonsu…”).

When used with the heptagram ritual, the words of power essentially correspond to calling the quarters or the Watchtowers, but in a non-angelic or early Hermetic manner.  Although Flowers and Cecchetelli both keep themselves to the four cardinal directions, I like the added use of the third dimension plus my own HGA being with me (once that connection is forged, any method to keep that connection open or make it stronger helps).  So, to call the respective directions using these names, I’d probably go with a structure like the following, visualizing the proper divine image for each name:

ΕΡΒΗΘ, take thy place before me!
ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, take thy place behind me!
ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ, take thy place at my right!
ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ, take thy place at my left!
ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, take thy place in the heights!
ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, take thy place in the depths!
(name of HGA), take thy place with me, now and at all times, here and in all places!

Of course, I wanted to do a bit of research in what these names mean, if they mean anything at all.  In a lot of cases when it comes to these barbarous words of power, there is no etymology to be found, though interesting conjectures might be made or results found through gematria and isopsephy.  ΕΡΒΗΘ is part of a frequently-seen Setian formula in the PGM, usually in damaging or harmful contexts; ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ and ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ are very common words used all throughout the PGM though with no known origin besides a possible Hebrew or Aramaic etymology, but often used for beneficial purposes.  ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ is part of a much longer word known as the Aberamen formula, itself a palindrome which contains the name of Thoth.  ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ is known to be one of the six Ephesia Grammata, hypothesized to refer to the Sun since ancient times, but has also been seen in the PGM for love and luck.  ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ is a word I’ve come to know as a Semitic phrase translated to “cast off the nets”, as in any boundaries or bindings that would prevent a ritual from working.  Beyond this, unfortunately, my research skills don’t turn up much.

As for the images, those are a bit easier, given that we know already to look at Greco-Egyptian symbolism.  Serpents are often seen as forces of great power, especially that of vital or creative essence; being both of the earth (crawling) and of the sky (flying), the flying serpent is not unlike the image of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, with whom ΕΡΒΗΘ shares some similarities.  Falcons are solar symbols, and is known to be the countenance of the Egyptian god Horus or Ra, depending on the timeframe.  Crocodiles are seen as gateways to the underworld and an animal of Set, countering the lighter images of the winged serpent and falcon.  The lotus is, much as in Eastern symbolism, an image of purity and eternity, and combined with the image of the infant symbolizes divinity being born into the world (the North is the Egyptian direction of holiness and immortality).  The images of the keyring and staff as well as of the torch and spear are a little more modern, to me, since they were things I “tuned into”, and so don’t have clear Egyptian correspondences.  The keyring and staff suggest the power over freedom (unlocking and locking as well as barring from and supporting one), while the torch and spear suggest active force (illumination, flammability, battle, direction).

Regardless of their occult meaning, the words work, which is the important thing.  For those who already do or have experience with the LBRP or calling the quarters/Watchtowers, you already know more or less what to expect with this.  When I use the calls of the names after the heptagram rite, I end up feeling distinct presences at the directions, kinda like guardians or gatekeepers, neither wrathful nor peaceful.  I like it, and it makes me feel safer and more powerful all at once.  It’s probably something I should’ve been doing in some form by this point, but I’ll also probably tweak and change it as needed until I come up with something a little more stable and fixed.  Using all six names isn’t strictly necessary; the four cardinal directions alone will suffice, using either Flowers’ or Cecchetelli’s associations of the names to the directions, but I prefer to use all six.  Using that extra third dimension helps me establish a magical zone or operant field, much as using the Qabbalistic Cross, “parting of the veil”, L(B/I)R(P/H), or what-have-you.

Genius, Skill, Talent, Technique

Between the sufferings of both modern public school education and psychological neuroses, a lot of people fall into one of two camps of belief:

  1. I can be anything I want and be good at everything I do.
  2. I can’t do anything no matter how hard I try.

Both of these beliefs are false, as I reckon them.  In a way, they’re two sides of the same coin, with each influenced by and growing upon the other.  The first belief (that of supercapability) is overly positive to combat any self-doubt, but when taken to its extreme, it fails the holder of that belief and leads one into the second belief (that of incapability).  That second belief is borne out of sorrow and doubt, but is also easily refuted in at least one action which can cycle back into the first belief.  Some people never cycle between the two, getting stuck in one belief or the other, but either way these beliefs are simply wrong.

According to the doctrine of astrology and Hermetic philosophy, we’re all born with several things, such as a purpose, a history, a goal, and a set of things we’re good at and a set of things we’re bad at.  Taken together, plus a little extra, this might all be construed as one’s True Will, the thing we’re supposed to be carrying out in order to fulfill our role in the cosmos as children of the Divine.  After all, the whole point of Hermeticism and Neoplatonism is to reclaim our true heritage and value as children of gods and co-creators of the cosmos, and we can’t know what we’re supposed to create without knowing what we’re good at and where we’re supposed to be.  Knowledge of our True Will helps us focus our efforts on the things we should be doing, which is almost always correlated with what we’re good at.

In addition to knowledge of our True Will, there are several spirits among the heavens that can help us find out what we’re supposed to be doing.  Among those, there are the threefold keepers of Man: the angel of the nativity, the Holy Guardian Angel, and the angel of the profession.  The angel of the nativity is the guy whose name is derived from the natal horoscope based on the five hylegical places, and is a guiding spirit who helps us out in this life for this incarnation.  While the HGA is more for our Selves across incarnations and the heavens, the angel of the nativity is a spirit specific to this life for what we need to do now.  In a way, it’s like the good angel on the shoulder of cartoon characters, but is more knowledgable about what we’re supposed to be doing and how we’re supposed to be doing it.  The other name for this spirit is the natal genius, or the birth-spirit, that helps us do what we need to do for ourselves and our Selves in this life.  In other words, it tells us what’s Right for us to do.  And, like I said before, when we do something proper and Right for us, it tends to be easy or flawless. 

We often call people “genius” when they’re really adept or smart at something, but it wasn’t originally a title of intelligence or mastery.  Instead, “genius” referred to the guiding spirit who helps us be good at certain things because that’s the role we’re supposed to fill; it’s kinda like a cosmic version of Huxley’s “Brave New World”.  Knowing what we’re good at via our genius helps us figure out our talents, the things we’re innately good at in the cosmos.  This could be anything from simple skills such as memorization or a good eye for measurement to whole fields like mathematics or biology or counseling.  Whatever we’ve got a talent in, we should probably explore and make use of. 

Still, just because one has talent in something doesn’t mean one has mastery.  Mastery in something can be called proper technique, the totality of knowledge in how, why, and what methods to use for a particular goal or end result.  Talent helps with building technique, but talent alone doesn’t cut it.  Talent needs refining through building skill, which can be thought of as learned technique as opposed to inborn technique through talent.  Skill helps refine talent to be used for specific, fine things in a regular, repeated manner that talent alone may not be able to do.  It’s like the difference between having a vague subconscious understanding of something and a total comprehension and coherent knowledge of it.

Other people, however, have little to no talent in a given technique, but still want to learn that technique.  In this case, skill is all they have to go on.  They’ll need to become more skillful to make up for the lack of talent, but this doesn’t mean they can’t learn technique or master something.  It just means they’ll have to learn and focus more on building up the skill that people with talent may already be good at.  However, spending time to build up skill in something in which one has little talent often takes time away from building up skill in something one does have talent for.  Keep in mind that talent implies that we’re supposed to be good at something and that we’re supposed to do it; if one shows talent in something but is wasting one’s skill on something else, they’re probably being misguided.

A lot of modern society treats all people the same, which is usually a good thing.  After all, I enjoy and favor equality of rights and opportunity for all, because we’re all still human and capable of basic humanity with human needs.  However, things go awry when society treats us all as having the same talents, skills, capabilities, and inclinations for things.  This kind of social conditioning does real damage, because it assumes everyone has the same basic drive and same basic talents, when this assumption doesn’t hold up.  Some people are very good at written language but awful at mathematics, some good at art and some good at sports, and so forth; we should afford people the chance to explore everything if they so choose, but we shouldn’t force them to pass standardized tests that assume everyone’s at an arbitrary level of technique for an arbitrary number of subjects.

Not everyone is going to be good at everything.  That’s just a fact of life, and that’s quite alright.  There are going to be subjects, fields, and tasks at which we aren’t suited but that others are.  This isn’t to say that we should settle for mediocrity and laziness for ourselves instead of striving to know and become more than we are, but we shouldn’t try to become a jack of all trades when we’re really only good and supposed to be good in a handful of them.  There are so many roles to fill in the world that requires dedication, single-mindedness, and talent in addition to skill, any number of which might be considered taboo or dangerous or outré, even though they’re just as necessary as any other.  Society may say it knows what’s best for itself, but it doesn’t.  We’ve all got a purpose, indicated by our talent and genius, and we need skill to make ourselves perfect.  Only with genius, skill, talent, and technique will we be able to know and carry out our True Will, and make progress on the path to becoming full-fledged co-creators of the cosmos once again.