The Candle Blitzkrieg House Blessing

I try to keep my home a stable place of safety; after all, the home is the foundation of all that it is we do. It’s where we rest, recover, and rejoice, where we sleep, study, and settle, where we live, love, and laugh. The home is the most sacred place we have, our own personal temples where we are established in our sanctuaries. Without someplace to call our own, our little niche in the world, we really don’t have much. As part of my own spiritual maintenance, I try to keep my home in as good a condition as I try to make myself, complete with its own cleansings and blessings and purifications and wardings so that it can be a place of safety and sanctuary where I feel safe and sacred in.

In addition to keeping the house clean and cleansed and everything else, one of the more effective things I find myself doing is a particular type of blessing upon the house that doesn’t take a lot of labor but does give quite the return on its work. The central idea behind this is that, after the house is more-or-less emptied of unwanted influences and filth, you want to fill the house with greatly-desired influences and Light. For this, what better way than to literally give light to each room, and better, a consecrated light? Because this process uses a lot of candles throughout the house all at once (small ones, not the large novena candles), I call this the Candle Blitzkrieg technique, and I’ve put it to good use both in my home and in others’. After all, one of my favorite tools is fire, and lots of it. May as well turn it to a beneficial use once in a while, eh?

While I tend to use it for a general purpose for just bringing divine Light into the home, I’ve also used it for more specific needs, such as a whole-house prosperity or peace blessing. You’ll note that this ritual takes on a distinctly Abrahamic/Christian tone at times, because that’s just the general mode I work in for this type of work. For many of my conjure-based or Western magician friends, this is fine; however, this ritual format doesn’t need to be held to that religion; using similar prayers to open, consecrate, and bless, you can adapt it to any spiritual tradition you find appropriate to use. The ritual presented below is my general-use form, but adapt it to however you need to.

This ritual may be done at any time as needed, but avoid using it too often, both to avoid an overuse of candles and an overfilling of a home with too many influences all at once, say at most once a month. Especially good times would be during the dark of the Moon, winter solstice, or any other times when Light is needed in the home, as well as after any thorough cleansing or banishing that needs to be sealed up with good influences. Doing this before moving into a new house is also a good practice. I prefer to do this after sunset and before midnight so that the light of the candles really stands out, but any time of day will do. Planetary hours and days may be observed if the blessing is geared towards a specific goal, but this is not strictly necessary.

For this ritual, you will need:

  • One large white candle (a tall taper or glass-encased candle work perfectly)
  • A bunch of small candles, one for each room in the house (tealights are most preferred, especially in their metal tins). These candles must all be the same color; white is always a good option, but they may be colored appropriately for a specific end of your choosing.
  • Three small white candles
  • Two small white dishes
  • Holy oil
  • A blessing oil of your choosing
  • A long match or igniting stick
  • Optionally, a crucifix or other symbol of Divinity
  • Optionally, a wand

First, as I mentioned before, it’s best to have already cleaned and cleansed the home before doing this work. Sweep, mop, vacuum, dust, take out the trash, do the dishes, do the laundry, beat the rugs, wipe the windows, and so forth, whatever you need to do to get the house physically clean; banish, light cleansing incense, use spiritual floor washes, sweep with a consecrated broom, and so forth, whatever you need to get the house spiritual cleansed. The usual protocol is to do these cleansings in a direction from top-to-bottom, back-to-front of the house, all out the front door. Doing so will allow the rest of this work to go much smoother and take effect more strongly and quickly in the home. Similarly, be sure you’re clean and cleansed yourself before taking on this work.

On a large, clean working space, preferably in the kitchen or living room or other “center” of your house, arrange all your supplies. Anoint the large white candle with holy oil on one of the white dishes, and the other candles (less the three white ones) around it with the blessing oil of your choosing; this can also be the same holy oil as you used on the large candle and is best for general blessings, but it can also be something more directed for a specific purpose (money-drawing, peace, reconciliation, joy, love, etc.). Set the three extra white candles on the other white dish, and set it aside for the time being. If so desired, take your chosen symbol of Divinity and set it up on the table or behind it where it can be seen during this work.

Once all the candles (except those last three) are anointed, light the large candle, and consecrate it:

I conjure thee, thou creature of fire, by him who created all things both in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and in every other place whatever, that thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing. Bless, oh Lord, this creature of fire +, and sanctify it that it may be blessed +, and that it may burn for your honor and glory +, so neither the enemy nor any false imagination may enter into it, through the Most High and Holy Creator of All. Amen.

Recite a preliminary prayer that allows you to set your mind to the work. For this and other general works, I use the following, which is based off the Preliminary Invocation from the Arbatel (aphorism II.14) and with an invocation from the Heptameron:

O God, mighty and merciful!
O God, great, excellent, and honored throughout endless ages!
O God, powerful, strong, and without beginning!
O God, wise, illustrious, just, and divinely loving!
O God, Lord of Heaven and Earth, maker and creator of all that is visible and invisible; I, though unworthy, call upon you and invoke you, through your only begotten son our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that you give your Holy Spirit to me, which may direct me in your truth, for the good of all. Amen.

I ask you, most holy Father, that I should fulfill and perfectly realize my petition, my work, my labor today. Grant to me your grace, that I may use these great gifts of yours only with humility, fear, and tremblings, through our Lord Jesus Christ with your Holy Spirit, You who live and reign, world without end. Amen.

Pray:

Grant, o Lord, that as I light this candle in your honor and glory, that your divine Light may fill up this home as light fills up the dawn to cast away the darkness of night. Bless this home with your grace, bless this home with your protection, bless this home with your presence that all darkness, all defilement, and all death may flee this place and that only joy, life, and light remain. May the seal of your holiness descend upon this house, and may all those who abide within it rest easy under your guidance. Amen.

After this, recite the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be over the candle.

From the large candle, light all of the smaller candles for each of the rooms of the house. If the large candle is a taper, use that candle to light all of the others; if you can’t do that, use a long match or other wooden stick that can hold a flame to transfer the flame from the large candle to the smaller ones. , As you do this, say a quick blessing upon the smaller candle as you light it that quickly and succinctly captures the intent for the blessing. Examples of something like this might be, depending on your intent:

  • “May the light of God fill this home.”
  • “Fill this home with peace.”
  • “Grant prosperity upon this home.”
  • “Heal those who abide in this home.”
  • “Protect the body and soul of all those who live here.”
  • &c.

This next step is optional, but I prefer doing it. Once all these candles are lit, using your dominant hand’s index finger (or a wand, if you have it, or whatever’s left of the long match/igniting stick you may have used), energetically link the flame of the large candle to each of the smaller candles. The process I use is tapping into the flame of the large candle, forging an energetic channel to the flame of the smaller candle, then back to the large candle; I then do this process again, starting from the flame of the small candle to that of the large candle and back. Then, I push a bit of energy of the Divine (avoid using your own, even if you’re already in a state of cleanliness and purity, which you should be in anyway) through something like the Hymns of Silence or other quick one-word intoned “amen” into the large candle to fix the connection. Do this for each of the smaller candles that have been lit. Even though a strong connection was already formed between the large candle and the smaller candles by spreading the flame out, I prefer to reinforce that connection energetically as well; those who use crystal grids will be familiar with this or similar techniques.

At this point, pray over all the lit candles for your intent. This part is really up to you, so long as you pray from the heart about it. You can use any number of psalms, invocations, litanies, or other prayers for this purpose, so long as it supports what you’re trying to do. For instance, you might use Psalm 122 if you’re blessing the house for prosperity, or Psalm 29 to purify the home generally, and so forth. Take as long or as short as you need; use whatever resources you feel moved to use. Essentially, pray that as each of these candles shines their light into each room of the house, that God may shine Light throughout the entire home, that all those who abide, live, reside, visit, or are invited in may dwell in his Light, and that you may obtain the blessing of his grace for what you seek in the home.

Take all the candles one by one and set them in each room of the house. The most essential places are where you spend most of your time, but it really is best to put one in every room: bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, garage, basement, hallways, crawlspaces, attic, everywhere. The idea is that, no matter where you are in the home, you can see at least one candle burning; if you need to use more than one candle in a room to achieve this effect, do so. Any shelves, wall sconces, or hanging candleholders or candelabras can be put to good use for this purpose. Just take care that the candleflame doesn’t go out in the process of moving and establishing that candle from the large candle to wherever it needs to go, and be careful of where you put each candle that it doesn’t cause a fire hazard. If their spirits, saints, angels, or gods agree to it, set candles in already-existing shrines around the house where you may have them to further empower the work at hand (just check with them before you do so). Try to go from the inside outward from where you started, so that the Light “spreads” throughout the home.

Once the candles have been set throughout the entire house, return to the large candle. If, in the course of setting lights throughout the house, you noticed that there’s a particularly strong “heart center” of the house, take this large candle and your chosen symbol of Divinity (if you have/want one) and establish it there. Otherwise, leave the large candle and the symbol of Divinity where it was where it can burn out completely, such as on the kitchen table, empty counter, fireplace mantel, or living room coffee table. While the large candle is burning, throughout the house generally but especially in the light of this candle, avoid engaging in any arguments, heated words, violence, blasphemy, or other actions that run counter to the presence and blessing of God.

At this point, take the plate with the three white candles on it. For the final part of this ritual as an act of thanksgiving, leave these candles unanointed, but set them up in a triangle pointing upwards on the dish in front of or just beside the large candle already lit. Light the candles one by one, and recite Jonah 2:9 once for each candle:

But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay that that I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.

(That part comes from Draja Mickaharic’s Magical Spells of the Minor Prophets, which is one of my favorite go-to sources of pretty dang effective magic. Short as it may be, it is a true treasure of that old-school Bible magic. I cannot recommend it enough. This particular working is simple and sweet, but is immensely powerful as an act of gratitude at the close of a working.)

Follow this up with any other silent prayers of thanksgiving, gratitude, respect, and honor to God. Once done, go about your business. Let all the smaller candles (including the thanksgiving ones) burn out on their own before collecting any tins or residue from around the house. The larger candle should be left to burn out on its own as well; if this is a multi-day candle, such as a novena candle, pray over it at sunrise and sunset for as long as it burns to continue the blessing of God into the home. Once this candle is burnt out, dispose of it as well. Enjoy your happily blessed home.

On Light in the Darkness of the Home

Winter is rough.  Sure, some people like it, but even for those who do, it’s not the easiest season to survive.  Full of short days and long nights and temperatures lower than high school students’ ages, it gets pretty bleak at the best of times, and downright deadly when it gets really bad.  I know of several people whose houses don’t have heat due to shoddy contractor work or slummy sleazy landlords, not to mention other friends who’ve gotten into accidents from driving on icy roads.  Historically, winter is the whole point of having a giant harvest season, because if you didn’t put in the work earlier in the year, you were setting yourself up for starvation and death.  Hell, even in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the phrase “winter is coming” is famous and ominous at the same time, and for good reason.  All told, winter isn’t exactly the gentlest of times.

This isn’t just a mere weather-based inconvenience thing, either.  In the winter, the Sun is so weak so as to be close to death or is only freshly reborn, far from being king over all during his summer solstice height.  Plants in general die or go into stasis and animals hibernate, depriving the world of motion and activity to keep things flowing properly.  The cold itself saps life away, and buries everything in a locked-down sense of malaise.  Even sound loses its echo after a snowfall, leaving words themselves drained of any power you put into them.  The long nights induce depression in those who are seasonally affected, and can even bring down the brightest of moods in those normally manic.  The unseelie court wields power, for those who’re into faerie lore; the strict Holly King rules.  We’re having to build ourselves up from scratch while living on so little.

It’s during this season that having Light in the home is most important, moreso than any other time of the year.  I’m not just talking about the usual Solar work, either, but I mean real, actual fire that you burn.  Whether it’s a fire in the hearth or a simple candle by your bedside, I’d urge you to follow through.  Keep the Light going, and it’ll make your life easier.

When I do a thorough house cleansing, like if someone’s having issues in their home due to spiritual malignancy or moving into a new place, one of the first things I do is I set up Light throughout the house.  I take a large white candle, either a pillar candle or a novena candle, and a number of white tealights, as many as there are rooms in the house.  After gathering them all together in the center of the home (central hearth, stove of the kitchen, whatever), with the large candle in the middle and the tealights around it, I inscribe or write on the symbols from the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 12):

Characters for Consecrating Candles from the Key of Solomon

After this, I anoint each candle with holy oil, starting first with the large candle and going clockwise with all the other tealights.  I then light the large candle, and use my normal candle benediction, a slight variation on that of the Trithemius conjuration:

I conjure thee, oh thou creature of fire! by him who created all things both in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and in every other place whatever, that forthwith thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing. Bless, oh Lord, this creature of fire, and sanctify it that it may be blessed, and that it may burn for your honor and glory; so neither the enemy, nor any false imagination, may enter into them; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

From this central candle, I light each of the other candles in turn.  Once all the candles have been lit, I energetically link the primary candle to the smaller ones, so that the same blessing is set upon all of them at once.  Then, with all the tealights lit, I move them and set them in all of the rooms in the house, such that no matter where you are, you’re always within eyesight of one of these little flames.  This includes bathrooms, walk-in closets, sheds, and the like, so that literally every part of the property has light burning inside.  I leave the primary pillar candle at the center of the house, and return to it after moving all the tealights everywhere; there, I pray over it, and from it radiate Light and warmth and blessing throughout the entire place.  Whether it’s my own prayer of lightbringing or another prayer more focused on a particular problem at hand, by means of this central focus candle, I fill the entire house with the same prayer and the same oomph.  After this, I go through the house doing my thing, and leave all the candles to burn out on their own.  The remains are then collected together and disposed of respectfully.

This is a little ritual I developed on my own as part of a thorough house-cleansing and -blessing, as one of the first things I do.  Think about it: if a house is filled with gunk and filth, or if you have crusty crap stuck on your stove or sinks, you want to get rid of it.  However, some of the tougher gunk tends to be harder to remove, so what do you do?  You soak it in cleaning agent for a few minutes before actually scrubbing it off.  The candles set up above do a similar thing; the Light weakens any darkness and any filth that may have accumulated, so that when I go through and actually banish the place by suffumigations or prayer, the groundwork has already been established to weaken the filth and to further empower me as I go about my work.  In addition, the candles in each room act as a kind of warning-canary; if the flame of a particular candle gets weak, flickers a lot, or goes out on its own, then it’s a signal that there’s something especially rough in the vicinity of that particular candle.  If such a candle goes out, I relight it and pray over it specifically before re-linking it back to the focus candle in the home’s center; I focus on that room specifically before continuing on elsewhere, making sure it’s sufficiently emptied of gunk and filth before going on to another room.

That said, I’m also in the habit of just having a candle burning in the center of the house anyway all the time.  For me, it’s partially related to the small work I do with Hestia as overseer and mistress of the home, and the goddess of the hearth herself; with a fire burning under this goddess, it helps ensure my house and home and family that we always have fire to warm ourselves, power to strengthen ourselves, purity to cleanse ourselves, and protection to keep ourselves safe under her watch over the most sacred of all places, the οικος-domus-home.  In point of fact, for myself and my housemates, I’ve noticed our mental health levels decrease and malaise increase over time the longer we don’t have at least one fire going in the house; we tend to slack off, leave more messes behind us, and generally feel crappy.  This is essentially us starting to lose our own inner heat without an external heat to empower us; if we get too cool or go cold, we start on a slippery slope to nowhere good.  When spiritually-inclined friends come over, if we don’t have a candle burning, they tend to sleep rougher and with more active or disturbing dreams; sure, myself as houseowner may be used to it and shrug it off, but for people who’re used to their own levels of protection in their own environments of familiarity, it can be a jarring experience.

Keeping at least one fire burning, whether under the watchful eyes of Hestia or the Virgin Mary or God himself, in the home for the sake of the home is always something I’d recommend to everyone.  Heck, this would go for people traveling, too.  Whenever I’m in a new room I’m unaccustomed to sleeping in, especially hotels, I always bring a candle with me and keep it lit when I’m asleep.  Sure, the hotel may not exactly approve, but it’s something I prefer to do to bring some of that extra protection with me (in addition to the normal wards and protections I set up).  Some people insist on having a candle burning by their bedside no matter where they sleep; if I’m doing a particular working that demands light at all times, I’ll do this, too, but normally that’s just overkill for me when I keep my own stuff up and running.

Of course, never forget the usual warnings about keeping fires burning, especially unattended.  Make sure pets or children don’t reach them, make sure they’re stable enough to resist being knocked over, keep them enclosed, &c.  Don’t burn down your house for want of warmth, even if you do have a generous insurance plan.

Mathetic Exercise: Light-bringing Breath

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

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

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

Tetractys

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

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

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

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

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

A11p12fig10.1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Candles and Their Uses

(Update 1/10/2018: Interested in more about this ritual?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

I think we can all agree that fire is a really cool thing.  I mean, who doesn’t like fire, or burning things, or setting things on fire?  I’m not just talking about the romanticism of bonfires on a summer or autumn night, but even simple candles that can give light to a dark room.  Fire is kinda important to us, not just as magicians, but as humans.  With fire, we bright light into the dark, enabling us to see what we could not previously; we can cook food, nourishing us and allowing us to eat better and safer; we can warm ourselves, staving off cold and death when there is no heat.  From a spiritual standpoint, these are all really important things, and more; fire is considered holy in many traditions, not least Zoroastrianism, which actually venerates fire.  After all, it always burns upward, toward heaven and God.  Notions of light, illumination, and enlightenment are kinda big in Hermeticism, too, and the element of Fire is associated with the Mind, the Intellect that allows us to know the Intelligible according to Cornelius Agrippa (book II, chapter 7).  Fire, among all the elements, is one that in a lot of ways is “alive”, and its special spiritual properties make it more than suitable but almost a mandatory requirement for much spiritual work.  Of course, the most I usually do with fire is light candles, but it’s not all the same depending on why I’m burning candles.  When it comes to burning candles for ritual work, I tend to classify candles into three groups: offering candles, work candles, and consecrated candles.  I treat each group differently in their preparation, purpose, and burning.

Offering candles are those I use as sacrifices for spirits and gods; unlike incense or wine, I will always have at least one candle burning when I make an offering to a spirit.  Everything else is optional, but not some sort of burnt offering.  I typically use unscented white tealights, with the exception of my ancestor altar, which I use a 7-day white candle; if a particular spirit prefers or asks for a specific color or a scented candle, I’ll give that to them instead, but unscented white tealights are the norm.  When making an offering, I light the candle, formally dedicate it to the spirit I’m making an offering to, and leave it to burn out completely on its own; you can find an example of such a dedication in this offering ritual I posted a while back.  While I won’t formally prepare the candles ahead of time as I would consecrated candles (more on that below), I may wipe them down with a bit of Florida water or holy water to clean them and make them pure and fit for offerings, assuming the spirit being offered it would like that.

Work candles are those that I use in a non-conjuration ritual to boost the power of the working; these are your general magic candles.  These will typically be colored candles, dressed with an oil, and engraved with names or symbols.  Candles used in most forms of magic nowadays (like for money or love spells), and especially most 7-day fixed candles you’d find in a hoodoo store or botanica, fall into this category.  The type of candle used, including color and oil and inscription, is heavily dependent on the ritual at hand.  I’ll usually leave work candles to burn on their own unless a particular working determines otherwise.

Consecrated candles are those I burn as part of a ritual to bring the light of God/Ain Soph Aur/Source into a formal ritual or as protection in a room or home.  These are always unscented white candles, either candlesticks or jarred 7-day candles.  I always keep one burning on my devotional altar (where I make most of my daily prayers, especially to God), and I light one on my Table of Manifestation (magic altar where I do non-conjuration work) as well as in conjuration rituals (which acts as the primary source of light and Light in the ritual).  With the exception of the candle on my devotional altar, I’ll put out consecrated candles either with a candle snuffer or a soft puff of breath at the end of a ritual.  I haven’t found any difference between putting them out with a candle snuffer or blowing them out, so this minor detail is up to you and what you think is proper.

I prepare my consecrated candles more-or-less according to the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 12).  The way I prepare my consecrated candles requires suitable candles (obviously), holy water, holy oil (I use Lucky Mojo’s 7-11 Holy Oil, but high-quality olive oil works fine), and incense (frankincense at minimum, though I prefer a blend of sandalwood, myrrh, frankincense, and cinnamon), as well as having an already-consecrated candle lit and present (if possible).  In a day and hour of Mercury during the waxing Moon, I engrave or write on the candles the following symbols:

Characters for Consecrating Candles from the Key of Solomon

If it’s a candlestick, I engrave these symbols directly onto the candle (downwards from the top) using a stylus; if it’s a jarred 7-day candle, I write this in marker on the UPC of the candle (may as well put that sticker to good use, especially since they’re difficult to remove in my experience).  After this, I set a censer with the incense and light the incense, and set the candles around the censer in a circle.  Then, I say Psalms 150, 103, and 117, then say the following prayer over the candles:

O Lord God, Who governest all things by Thine Almighty Power, give unto me, a poor sinner, understanding and knowledge to do only that which is agreeable unto Thee; grant unto me to fear, adore, love, praise and give thanks unto Thee with true and sincere faith and perfect charity. Grant, O Lord, before I die, and descend into the realms beneath, and before the fiery flame shall devour me, that Thy Grace may not leave me, O Lord of my Soul. Amen.

I exorcise thee. O Creature of wax, by Him Who alone hath created all things by His Word, and by the virtue of Him Who is pure truth, that thou cast out from thee every Phantasm, Perversion, and Deceit of the Enemy, and may the Virtue and Power of God enter into thee, so that thou mayest give us light, and chase far from us all fear or terror.

After this, I rub the candles with holy water (the whole candle if it’s a candlestick, or the top part with the wick and around the glass if it’s a 7-day), praying that the candle might be cleansed and purified; I rub the candle with holy oil (the whole candle if a candlestick, or the top part with the wick and inside the glass if it’s a 7-day), praying that it might shine with the light of God; and I suffumigate the candles in the burning incense, praying that it might be filled with the spirit of God to aid me in all my works.  Then I let the incense burn out, let the holy water dry on the candles, and set them aside until I need them.

When I light a consecrated candle, I use the following prayer to sanctify the light:

I conjure thee, thou creature of fire, by him who created all things both in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and in every other place whatever, that thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing.  Bless, oh Lord, this creature of fire +, and sanctify it that it may be blessed +, and that it may burn for your honor and glory +, so neither the enemy nor any false imagination may enter into it, through the Most High and Holy Creator of All.  Amen.

Versions of this are found in the Heptameron as well as the Key of Solomon and even Trithemius’ Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals.  I use the one from Trithemius, with a few modifications to bring it more in line with the Heptameron.  At the + signs, I make a cross over the flame.

I’ve found that, in pretty much every working I do, I like to have at least one consecrated candle burning throughout the ritual, whether it’s a consecration of a talisman, conjuration of an angel, or the blessing of a home.  In that latter case, I’ll light a consecrated candle and use that flame to light a whole bunch of other tealights; I set the consecrated candle by the hearth (or kitchen, if there’s no fireplace), and each of the other candles in each room of the house.  Not only does this bring Light into the house, but it also helps to weaken any darkness or defilement that may have taken up residence.  In this function, consecrated candles act as a kind of protection-by-holiness, which can be helpful in many cases.  In conjuration, this has the effect of keeping bad stuff out of the conjuration circle, and forces whatever’s in the conjuration to be truthful and to stay away if they’re trying to deceive or lie to me.  In other workings, it simply acts as a connection and representation of God, from which all power derives.

What are your thoughts on burning candles in magic?  Do you have other uses of candles besides the above (and besides burning them for how pretty or warm they are)?  Do you have a different candle consecration ritual, if any at all?  Do you have a favorite type of candle-based spell?  Let me know in the comments!

49 Days of Definitions: Part IX, Definition 4

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

Today, let’s discuss the thirty-ninth definition, part IX, number 4 of 7:

Soul’s illness: sadness and joy; soul’s passions: desire and opinion.  Bodies are silimar to souls when they are seen: none (is) ugly (if it is) good, none is evil (if it is) honest.  Everything is visible to one who has Nous; who(ever) thinks of himself in Nous knows himself and who(ever) knows himself knows everything.  Everything is within man.

The Definitions have been good in explaining things at a high level: where we came from, what our job is, the nature of God, and so forth.  Being short as it is, however, it doesn’t afford us many of the details to a lot of the questions it brings up.  This is how we have a traditions of philosophy that go back for two thousand years and analytic texts that help explain the core tenets of a religion and how things play out based on actual scripture which, almost always, doesn’t answer every question in full.  That’s often the point; what’s the point of describing the nature of God to someone who doesn’t know what God is?  The core texts exist to help get the proper footing needed to start learning and experiencing on our own.  Likewise, with the Definitions, we’re not told much about some of the things that we may want to know.  For instance, consider the soul: we know that all moving things have souls and that Man’s soul is different from other types of soul.  We know the high-level bare-bones theory of the soul, but we haven’t talked much about the nitty-gritty details of soul.  While we don’t (and can’t) know everything from a simple single text, we can get a basic grasp of it from learning and reasonable speech, which the Definitions provide us.  And this short definition has quite a lot to unpack.

Here, we learn that the soul isn’t something immutable: it has illnesses and passions.  Illnesses, broadly speaking, are temporary conditions where something is afflicted and cannot function properly.  For instance, a cold or catching the flu are illnesses, where the body’s immune system is compromised and several parts of the body go out of whack for a short while.  Some illnesses don’t affect us much and are as quickly lost as they were caught; some have a sudden onset and kill us; some linger around forever waiting for an opportunity to strike in tandem with something else to kill us.  Passions, on the other hand, are strongly felt emotions or mental states that drive us to action; the root word for this in English comes from Latin meaning “to suffer”, while the Greek means “feeling”, “suffering”, or “what befalls to one”.  Passions change us, drive us, and steer us to certain actions that normally might not be taken.  The difference between illnesses and passions is that illnesses affect someone from the outside; they’re never caught in isolation (I’m referring only to the common sense of communicable diseases, not genetic or other “natural” diseases).  Passions, however, arise from within.  If we restrict the meaning of “illness” to communicable diseases, passions might be associated with genetic disorders or other internal states such as heat, hunger, or fatigue.

We now know that the soul has two illnesses, “sadness and joy”, which arise from external causes.  The soul doesn’t make itself sad or happy, but gets the causes for these things from outside itself: the body, things that happen to the body or soul, and other external events or entities.  Likewise, the soul has two passions, “desire and opinion”, which arise from internal causes.  The soul creates these or are predisposed to these things on its own; we don’t directly get desires or opinions from outside ourselves, but come up with them on our own.  Of course, the two are connected; emotions (“illnesses”) can provide the impetus for passions, such as finding something that makes us happy and us leading to believe that we should get more of it.  Likewise, passions can help produce emotions once effected, such as desiring something that we cannot obtain, the lack of which makes us sad.

The illnesses and passions of the soul, though different and arising from different sources, are intertwined in a complex way.  Both, however, afflict the soul.  A healthy soul free of illness would be free from sadness or joy, and a calm soul free of passions would be free from desire and opinion.  Of course, no soul in a body can be properly free of these things; these are all qualities, and a soul gains “quality and quantity as well as good and evil” when it gains a body, “for matter brings about such things” (VII.4).  These things cloud the judgment, knowledge, and action of the soul, and so change the movement, function, and state of the body that it inhabits.  Because the soul would not have these things without a body, the body can be said to be the cause of both soul-illness and soul-passion, though it may not be the source for their’ arising.  Just as bodily illnesses prevent the body from acting the way it should, soul-illnesses prevent the soul from acting as it should.  Similarly, just as bodily passions drive the body to act in certain ways, soul-passions drive the soul to act in certain ways.  While all illnesses are to be avoided since they prevent action, not all passions are bad if they drive us to act a certain way; after all, it’s a good and healthy passion of the body to live and eat, and it’s a good and healthy passion of the soul to desire and know Nous (VII.3).  (The terminology here hints at Hermeticism’s influence from classical Stoicism, one of my favorite philosophies.)

Why are things like sadness and joy bad?  After all, while sadness might be seen as undesirable (note how a passion here comes into play!), we often find joy and happiness to be desirable and fun.  Keep in mind, however, that these are things that arise from external things, which are material in nature.  If we pursue the material for the sake of the material, or if we produce things that make us happy because they make us happy, then we’re effectively rising no higher than the material realm where these things exist.  If we pursue things for their own sake or for a proper opinion of them (as developed by Logos and Nous within ourselves), and if we become happy in the process, awesome, but that shouldn’t be the goal of our pursuit and only serves to distract us if we hold onto that feeling.  (I’m reminded of the Zen koan “if you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him”.)  It’s normal for us to be afflicted by sadness and joy as we go through the world doing our stuff, just as we’re accosted by germs and parasites and viruses every time we leave the house to go to work or the store.  We get these things that may make us sick in the course of doing something else; we don’t try to hold onto them, so that way we don’t get distracted from what we went outside our houses for.  If we become happy on the way to the grocer because we enjoy driving, we don’t keep driving for the sake of driving hoping that it continues to make us happy.  We drive to get to the store and we drive back, lest we run out of gas on the road and end up never going to the store or getting home.  Likewise, if we become happy or sad in the process of our Work, that’s just what happens to us; we should shrug it off naturally as the body sheds off illnesses naturally,

Opinions and desires, on the other hand, drive us to do different things based on what we consider.  These are things that arise up out of the soul from different intelligible causes; according to opinion, after all, many gods have come into being that are not God (VIII.1), yet, through unreasonable speech and opinions, are worshiped as ultimate divinity for spiritual or political reasons (VIII.3).  While the Nous dwelling within the soul provides a set of natural opinions and desires that would help us lead proper lives, we as humans are capable of choosing them or choosing other ones that can lead to God or to elsewhere (VIII.6).  Depending on what external stimuli we have, our opinions and desires are swayed both by them and by Nous, and depending on which tendencies to action are stronger, our bodies and selves are led to act in certain ways by our souls, which can produce more sets of external stimuli.  For instance, we desire to go to the store to get food to cook for the week, but we may be tempted by an immediate hunger and a carelessness of money and go to a fancy restaurant instead.  Likewise, we may desire to study magic or religion, but we can be persuaded by other people to study this tradition instead of that one or no tradition at all, or we can get tempted to use it more of a means to impress or socialize other people because we think it more helpful to us instead of studying it for its own sake as a means to gnosis.

Sadness and joy, the illnesses of the soul, happen to us and afflict us as they will; just as exposing ourselves to bodily illness largely can’t be avoided, so too do we expose ourselves to them, though we can take measures and caution to make sure they don’t affect us too much and prevent us from acting how we will.  Desires and opinions, however, are much more within our control, and how do we form these?  With deliberation and our use of reason and speech, which help to provide knowledge (V.2).  By this knowledge we come to understand the world around us, which helps to provide knowledge of God.  Thus, by even trying to know God as bodily beings, we expose ourselves to danger and affliction, but this is just part of being a material being with qualities, quantities, and “good and evil”.  We should choose good, but what is good?  Knowledge, which is God, which is Nous, which is light (IX.2).  When we have Nous and knowledge, we know things as they are (II.2), which produces desires and opinions that lead us to where we need to be.

Thus, when we truly see things, we know them as they are.  “Bodies are similar to souls when they are seen: none is ugly if it is good, none is evil if it is honest”.  We do not fear the things we know (IX.3), so we are not averted by them; thus, if things are good, we know them as they are and as part of God, and so they are not “ugly”, which would cause fear and aversion if we did not truly see them.  Similarly, if they are honest, they show themselves as they are, not hiding anything.  If something hides itself without honesty, it is a lie, which is a result of unreasonable speech; further, if it hides from light which is Nous, it clouds knowledge of itself and produces darkness, the absence of light.  These things are then “evil”, since they prevent knowledge from being obtained.  These things hide, and hiding is caused by fear (IX.3), which is caused by a lack of knowledge, which is ignorance, which is evil (VII.5).  We can draw several comparisons here:

  • Things that are good are not ugly (causing attraction)
  • Things that are good are honest (truth)
  • Things that are evil are ugly (causing aversion)
  • Things that are evil are not honest (lies)
  • Things that are ugly are not honest
  • Things that are honest are not ugly

With light, one can see; with knowledge, nothing is hidden (V.2).  Nous is knowledge; thus, “everything is visible to one who has Nous”, since Nous sees all things (V.1).  Further, since one’s self is within Nous as everything is, “whoever thinks of himself in Nous knows himself and whoever knows himself knows everything” (cf. the Delphic maxim “know thyself”). Everything is within God, which is Nous.  If we know ourselves, we know God, and if we know ourselves, we know everything.  Thus, this definition finishes with a powerful statement: “everything is within man”.  We’ve seen references to this before: “man is a small world…a perfect world whose magnitude does not exceed…the world” (I.4);”God is within himself, the world is in God, and man in the world” (VII.5).  We are a microcosm, a reflection of the world as well as of God, and if we know one part of the Whole, we come to know the Whole, so if we come to know ourselves, we come to know the Whole, which is everything.  Everything is within us.

49 Days of Definitions: Part IX, Definition 2

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

Today, let’s discuss the thirty-seventh definition, part IX, number 2 of 7:

The exterior (things) are understood by the external (organs): the eye sees the exterior (things), and Nous the interior.  The exterior (things) would not exist, if there were not the interior (ones).  Where(ever) Nous (is), there is light; for Nous is light and light is Nous.  Who(ever) has Nous is enlightened, and who(ever) has not Nous is deprived of light.

Okay, so not all of the final definitions are long, and in fact this one is pretty straightforward.  Let’s jump in, shall we?  First, recall that there’s a crucial difference between that which is sensible and intelligible: the intelligible cannot be sensed unless it is has a sensible nature.  It might be known or understood, but it cannot be sensed.  All sensible things are intelligible, but not all intelligible things are sensible.  That which makes the intelligible sensible is the presence of a body: all things with bodies are sensible.

We witness and observe the sensible things by the sensations they give us by means of our sensory organs.  Thus, we see visible things with our eyes; we hear audible things with our ears; we smell odiferous things with our nose; we feel motion with our sense of balance.  Some things are triggered by more than one sense, such as luminescent food that triggers both sight and taste.  Some things trigger only one, some things trigger all of them at once.  If something is registered as existing by at least one sense organ, it is sensible; moreover, it is external to the essential Man.  The act of sense only makes logical sense if we have the sensor and sensee; if there is nothing external to someone, then nothing can be sensed.  That’s why God has no senses and cannot sense anything, for God has all sensations within itself (VIII.2).  Humans, however, are not everything like how God is, and so there are things that are not-humans, and so can be sensed by humans, including other humans.

Thus, “exterior things are understood by external organs”: things that are sensible are registered by the senses.  As an example, the definition gives that of the eye: “the eye sees the exterior things”.  However, the definition also gives a comparison, where the “Nous [sees] the interior [things]” just as “the eye sees the exterior things”.  This accords with V.1, where “Nous sees everything, and eyes all corporeal things”.  And about that bit about Nous seeing everything, where this definition says that Nous sees all internal things?  This is about the things that cannot be sensed but still exist, i.e. the intelligible.  Remember that “all of that [which is] visible cannot possibly be constituted without the invisible”.  Nous sees “every move of soul” (II.6), and has all sensations and understanding within himself (VII.2); this is confirmed as the definition says “the exterior things would not exist, if there were not the interior ones”.

Nous is capable of understanding and “sensing” (in its own way) everything, while the corporeal body can only sense that which is sensible.  However, all of that sensible stuff is fed as data to the Nous: “the eyes [become an observer] for Nous” (V.1).  But Nous sees everything to begin with; Nous is both the means of sensing, the source of it, and the result of it.  Without Nous, nothing would be known; with Nous, we can know things.  There’s another word for this, introduced way back in II.6: light.  Recall that light “makes appear all of the visible things”, and “light appears just as it is by itself”.  The connections between Nous and light back there are made more clear here: “wherever Nous is, there is light; for Nous is light and light is Nous”.  Think about that: we recognized light as a “good”, just as Nous is the Good (II.1); we assumed a connection between the two there, and now it’s confirmed here.  Nous is what makes everything appear “as it is by itself”.  Nous is what helps us to understand the intelligible things that we may come to know them.  Light is what helps us to see the sensible things that we may come to know them.  Nous is light, light is Nous.

This parallel can be seen earlier in VIII.5.  Recall that “nature is the mirror of truth”, where truth is the form and essence of the intelligible things, and that we come to know truth by means of looking at nature.  However, how do mirrors work?  If we can’t see anything, the mirror doesn’t reflect anything.  Mirrors work by reflecting light.  Light is the means by which mirrors can reflect images.  Light is what helps us see truth from nature, and which helps us see nature from truth.  By coming to understand even part of the world, we come to understand God by the illumination of sense, observation, and understanding.  What exists in the intelligible world is reflected down into the sensible world, and what exists in the sensible world is reflected up into the intelligible world.  Light is what makes either of these things known to us by means of the other.  And, since light is Nous and vice versa, Nous is what helps us understand everything.

When we come to a state of complete understanding, we often refer to this as “enlightenment”.  We use it to translate the nirvana/nibbana of the Buddhists, the moksha of the Hindus, and for other states of awareness and at-one-ness in other paths.  Note the root of that word: “en-light-enment”.  One who is enlightened has the quality of being made or put into light.  A similar term is “illumination”, coming from the Latin word lux, also meaning light.  When we have Nous, we then have light; as our souls are joined with Nous, we are joined with light.  We are literally made into light; we are enlightened.  Thus, “whoever has Nous is enlightened”.

Similarly, the converse is true: “whoever has not Nous is deprived of light”.  If one does not have Nous, one does not have light.  Without Nous, we cannot reach enlightenment, since we cannot understand things as they are.  That’s the whole point of Hermeticism, to perfect the soul through knowledge of the beings and of God.  Without light, we cannot see, and without Nous, we cannot understand.  If Nous sees by means of the eyes, and we have no Nous, then our sight is basically wasted, like having functional eyes for someone who is otherwise blind.  That sight information, spiritually speaking, goes nowhere except the body itself; this is an animal condition, if we see for ourselves and not for Nous.  Further, if we go back to the “nature is the mirror of truth” image, if we have no light, then we cannot see into the mirror.  Without sight, we cannot understand the natures of sensible things and so cannot understand the corresponding intelligible things.  Without Nous, we cannot understand the truth of intelligible things and so cannot see the corresponding sensible things.

The connection between eyesight and soulsight is important.  Remember that Man is the only one among the living beings with capacity for Nous; although Nous exists within all souls, it’s our special capacity for divine Nous that allows us to become closer to and as God once we’re spiritually mature enough for it.  This involves, again, a process of experience of the state, condition, and situation we’re in as human beings with a mortal body and immortal soul.  We alone among the living beings belong to and experience all the parts of the sensible world, and since the sensible reflects the intelligible and vice versa, we can come to know all the things by means of that which we see and understand down here.  Mankind is a very sight-based animal, and we’ve evolved to have fairly good eyesight as our primary sense.  By using imagery associated with sight, Hermes does us a solid and makes things a little easier to understand.

49 Days of Definitions: Part VII, Definition 3

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

Today, let’s discuss the twenty-sixth definition, part VII, number 3 of 5:

From the murk into light the body goes out of the womb, but soul enters the body from the light into darkness.  The sight of the body is the eye; but that of soul is Nous.  Just as a body which as (got) no eyes sees nothing, likewise a soul which has (got) no Nous is blind.  Whatever the (babe) in the womb will crave for, so will the pregnant woman desire the same; likewise whatever (Nous) in soul will crave for, so will man desire the same.

Ah, yet another comparison between the development of the soul in the body and the development of the body in the womb!  Yet what’s that?  This is actually a contrasting statement for once!  Before we’ve only ever seen things that liken the soul/body and body/womb images, but here we get an inversion.  “From the murk into light the body goes out of the womb”; simple enough.  The body, once formed, leaves the womb from a small enclosed space with little to sense, witness, or experience into the greater world as an independent being.  Its eyes are opened and it can finally see.  However, the case is different from the soul and the body.  When the soul enters the body, it does so “from the light into darkness”.  It’s like the reverse of the body and the womb; the body cannot really be un-born, but if it were, it’d also enter into darkness from light.  Thus, the soul, in order to develop, has to be taken out of a bigger world and put into a darker, corruptible body.  This implies some sort of affectation or impediment on the soul, especially given the connotation of “light” here.

Recall that “light is a good, a clear vision, which makes appear all of the visible things” (II.6).  It is good when we enter into light, which helps us see and sense and make intelligible the things in the world to ourselves.  Thus, it is good when a body is born from the womb, since it enters into light and is then able to see; after all, “the sight of the body is the eye”, and “eyes [see] all corporeal things” (V.1).  However, when the soul enters the body, it enters into darkness, and thus it cannot see.  Or can it?  If the eye is the sight of the body, then “that of soul is Nous”, and “Nous sees everything” (V.1).  We know that all of Man has the capability for Nous, but does not always possess it depending on their progress towards Nous through Logos (V.3).

So, when a body is born from a womb, its eyes are free and open to see the world; while in the womb, it cannot see, since it has no eyes apart from that which are in the womb.  What about the soul, though?  “Just as a body which has got no eyes sees nothing, likewise a soul which has got no Nous is blind.”  The Nous, which sees everything, allows the soul to likewise see everything just as Man is able to be part of the entire world and not just any single part (VII.2).  However, not all souls are given Nous, and so some souls are blind.  It is by the development of our souls through using the entirety of the essence of Man that we can obtain and be gifted with Nous, enabling our souls to see clearly, and thus reenter into light.  After all, light is a good, just as the Nous is the Good; light and Nous are very tightly coupled.  We don’t call it “enlightenment” for nothing, after all.  By entering into light, we enter into the Nous, and thus enter into God, which is everywhere at all times, just as Man is in all parts of the world at all times.  However, just as the world exists only as one part of God, individual humans exist only as one part of Man and in one part of the world at any given time.

Now we start to get a better notion of what this whole “perfection of the soul” thing is.  When is the soul ready to leave the body?  When is the soul fully formed?  We’ve read comparisons saying that the soul develops in the body just as a body is developed in the womb, but we haven’t seen what that completion criterion might be.  Now we do: it’s when the soul is given Nous.  After all, when a body is fully formed in the womb, it has all the parts and pieces of the body that should be there, not least of which are eyes, which is sight; sight is only used, or rather the eyes are only used, once the body leaves the womb, “from the murk into light”.  Entering into light is the mark of full development; thus, when the soul can see again, it can be considered fully developed within the body and can attain perfection, “from the murk into light”.  Thus, to know God, to be gifted with Nous and to serve it with reasonable speech, this is the mark of perfection in the soul.

Of course, the soul was already in light to begin with; after all, it “enters the body from the light into darkness”.  Thus, the soul was already in contact with and part of the Nous; the soul, then, comes from Nous.  We already know that “every move of soul is perceived by Nous” (II.6), but to say that souls come from Nous is interesting.  Where else would they come from, though?  They are not sensible, and so cannot be part of the world; they are only intelligible, and thus part of God that dwells within the world.  When the soul enters the body, it becomes separated or cut off somehow, entering into darkness and therefore separation from God where it can no longer see or maintain contact with God.  This is an interesting idea, but goes along with the division of the cosmos into the world, heaven, God, and the like.  After all, the soul inhabits a sensible body, which can only sense other sensible things; God is not sensible, and so God cannot be sensed by the body, though it dwells within and as a part of God.  Just as the body within the womb cannot sense things outside the womb, the soul within the sensible body cannot sense things outside the sensible bodies it can sense.

The body within the womb develops according to how it must, and in order to develop properly, it requires certain needs: food, drink, activity, and the like.  We often joke about mothers eating bizarre things like pickles and ice cream at midnight while pregnant, but that’s not wholly unfounded; dehydration, exhaustion, pica, and similar conditions can happen to women who aren’t preparing for a proper pregnancy.  This was known even in ancient times: “whatever the babe in the womb will crave for, so will the pregnant woman desire the same”.  The same holds true for the Nous and the soul while the soul develop in the body: “whatever Nous in soul will crave for, so will man desire the same”.  Nous is the core function of the soul, the heart of the soul, the home of the soul, and it is Nous that guides the soul and provides it with the impetus for the motion the soul gives to the body.    The needs of the Nous are, thus, the needs of the soul.  While the soul develops in the body, the needs of the soul must be tended to, and so the body that develops a soul will be driven to act in whatever ways the soul needs to benefit from.

Of course, just like a mother who denies eating or acting right to provide for the proper development of her child, a human can ignore the impulses the soul gives him so as to provide for the proper development of the soul.  It’s like speech: whereas “speech endowed with Nous is a gift of God, speech without Nous is a finding of man” (V.3).  When we act with Nous, we act properly and for the development and good of our souls.  When we act without Nous, we act only for the benefit of the body.  The soul, however, is insensible, invisible, and immortal, while the body is mortal, corruptible, and temporary.  The Definitions are getting pretty clear where we should set our priorities; after all, “just as you will behave towards your soul when it is in this body, likewise it will behave towards you when it has gone out of the body” (VI.3).