A New Model of Elemental Assignments to the Geomantic Figures

We all know the basic four elements of Western occult cosmology, don’t we?  Of course we do!  We know that there’s Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, in order from least dense to most dense, or from most subtle to least subtle, whichever you prefer.  They’re even described in the Divine Poemander, the opening chapter of the Corpus Hermeticum as being fundamental (even in this same order!) to the creation of the cosmos:

And I saw an infinite sight, all things were become light, both sweet and exceeding pleasant; and I was wonderfully delighted in the beholding it. But after a little while, there was a darkness made in part, coming down obliquely, fearful and hideous, which seemed unto me to be changed into a certain moist nature, unspeakably troubled, which yielded a smoke as from Fire; and from whence proceeded a voice unutterable, and very mournful, but inarticulate, inasmuch as it seemed to have come from the Light.  Then from that Light, a certain holy Word joined itself unto Nature, and outflew the pure and unmixed Fire from the moist nature upwards on high; it was exceeding Light, and sharp, and operative withal. And the Air, which was also light, followed the Spirit and mourned up to Fire from the Earth and the Water, insomuch that it seemed to hang and depend upon it.  And the Earth and the Water stayed by themselves so mingled together, that the Earth could not be seen for the Water, but they were moved because of the Spiritual word that was carried upon them.

According to long-standing doctrine, going back to the time of Aristotle and before him even unto Empedocles, the four elements are considered to be arranged according to the two qualities each element has.  One pair of qualities exists on a spectrum from Hot to Cold, and the other from Dry to Moist.  If you take both Hot and Dry, you end up with Fire; Hot and Moist, Air; Cold and Moist, Water; Cold and Dry, Earth.  In this way, each element pertains to two qualities:

Hot Cold
Dry Fire Earth
Moist Air Water

This sort of arrangement has classically been described graphically with a kind of diamond-square diagram, showing how the four elements arise from combinations of these two qualities.  In the below diagram, Fire is represented by the upwards-pointing triangle in the upper left positioned between Hot and Dry, Air by the upwards-pointing triangle with a horizontal bar in the upper right between Hot and Wet, and so forth.

The thing about the four elements is that, while they are combinations of two qualities, they’re not necessarily static combinations thereof.  Some philosophers have specified that the elements are primarily of one quality and secondarily of the other that allows them to change into each other or react with each other in a more fluid way.  Fire, for instance, is both hot and dry, but in this fluid system, is specifically considered to be primarily hot and secondarily dry.  In the diagram above, we can see this in that, going clockwise around the diagram, the primary quality of an element is clockwise from that element’s corner, and the secondary quality is counterclockwise; in this sense, the primary quality is what that element is headed into, and the secondary quality is what that element is leaving behind.  Thus:

  • Fire is primarily hot and secondarily dry.
  • Air is primarily wet and secondarily hot.
  • Water is primarily cold and secondarily wet.
  • Earth is primarily dry and secondarily cold.

From this, let’s say that the four qualities themselves—even if they’re proto-elemental—can be ascribed to the four elements themselves, such that Heat is basically the main characteristic of Fire, Moisture of Air, Cold of Water, and Dryness of Earth.  (This offshoot of the Empedoclean-Aristotelian system is in opposition to the Stoic system, which gives Heat and Coldness to Fire and Air, and Moisture and Dryness to Water and Earth, but that doesn’t matter for the purposes of this system which is effectively unrelated.)  So, although Heat is part of both Fire and Air, Heat is more aligned towards Fire than Air.

We also know that certain elements—more properly, certain qualities of the elements—cannot be together lest they cancel each other out because of their inherent opposition.  Heat and Cold cancel each other out, as do Moisture and Dryness.  Thus, when we say that Fire and Water cancel each other out, it’s really their elemental qualities that cancel each other out, leaving behind a mess.  What remains when different elements cancel each other out, or some combination of elements reinforcing each other in some ways or reducing each other in other ways, can be instructive in how to alchemically understand these elemental reactions from a basic principle.

Now consider the 16 geomantic figures.  Each figure, as we all know by now, is represented by four rows, each row having one or two dots.  Each row represents one of the four elements: from top to bottom, they’re Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  A single dot in a row signifies the presence or activity of that element in the figure, while two dots in a row signifies its absence or passivity.  Thus, Laetitia (with only one dot in the topmost Fire row and two dots in the other rows) has only Fire active, and so forth.  We know that there are many different ways to assign the elements to the figures, some being more recent than others, and the way I like to assign them has the benefit of being one of the oldest used in Western geomancy…mostly, with the figures Laetitia and Rubeus swapped around so that Laetitia is ruled by Fire and Rubeus by Air.  Moreover, my way of assigning the elements also has a benefit of giving each figure both a primary and a secondary elemental ruler, which has come in use in various techniques more often than I had originally anticipated.

Still, what would happen if we used a different method beyond overall signification to assign the figures to the elements?  What would happen if we took the structure of the figures themselves as the sole key to understand their elemental affinities based on what’s present, what’s absent, what cancels out, and what reinforces each other?  Knowing that certain elemental qualities do just that when put together, what would happen if we took that structural approach to the elements active within a geomantic figure?  For instance, Puer has Fire, Air, and Earth active; we know that because of their opposing qualities, Air (Hot and Wet) and Earth (Cold and Dry) cancel each other out, leaving only Fire behind, giving Puer a basically fiery nature.  What if we took this approach to all the figures, seeing what came out of such elemental interactions amongst the elements present within a geomantic figure?

Fire First
Row
Second
Row
Third
Row
Fourth
Row
Remainder Result
Laetitia Hot
Dry
Hot
Dry
Fire
Fortuna
Minor
Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Hot ×2 Hot
Amissio Hot
Dry
Cold
Wet
Ø Null
Cauda
Draconis
Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Cold
Wet
Hot
Wet
Air
Puer Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Cold
Dry
Hot
Dry
Fire
Rubeus Hot
Wet
Hot
Wet
Air
Coniunctio Hot
Wet
Cold
Wet
Wet ×2 Wet
Acquisitio Hot
Wet
Cold
Dry
Ø Null
Puella Hot
Dry
Cold
Wet
Cold
Dry
Cold
Dry
Earth
Via Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Cold
Wet
Cold
Dry
Ø Null
Albus Cold
Wet
Cold
Wet
Water
Populus Ø Null
Carcer Hot
Dry
Cold

Dry

Dry ×2 Dry
Caput
Draconis
Hot
Wet
Cold

Wet

Cold

Dry

Cold
Wet
Water
Fortuna
Maior
Cold
Wet
Cold
Dry
Cold ×2 Cold
Tristitia Cold
Dry
Cold
Dry
Earth

Note the overall results we get:

  • Eight figures end up with an actual element that represents them, four being a result of that element being the only active one in that figure (e.g. Laetitia, being Fire, because only Fire is active), and four being a result of that element being active, its opposing element being inactive, and the other two elements that cancel out being active (e.g. Puer, being Fire, because Fire is active but so is Air and Earth, which cancel each other out).
  • Four figures end up with being not an actual element, but a single quality, because it contains the two elements active in that figure that have that quality, with the other qualities of those elements canceling out (e.g. Fortuna Minor is pure Heat, because Fire and Air are active within it, both elements of Heat, though the dryness of Fire and moisture of Air cancel each other out).
  • Four figures end up with being null and void of any element or quality.  One is trivial, Populus, because it just has nothing active in it to begin with, but the other three (Via, Amissio, and Acquisitio) are combinations of only opposing elements that all cancel each other out somehow.

If we separate out those eight figures that end up with an element into a “pure element” group (where the figure consists of only that single element itself) and a “muddled element” group (where the figure consists of that element plus two other elements that oppose each other and cancel out), we end up with a neat grouping of four groups of four figures.  Even nicer is that the Pure Element, Muddled Element, and Single Quality groups all have each figure representing one of the four elements (the Single Quality representing elements by means of their most closely associated quality, e.g. Fire by Heat, Water by Cold).  That leaves us with a convenient scheme for assigning the figures to the elements in a new way…

Fire Air Water Earth
Pure
Element
Laetitia Rubeus Albus Tristitia
Muddled
Element
Puer Cauda
Draconis
Caput
Draconis
Puella
Single
Quality
Fortuna
Minor
Coniunctio Fortuna
Maior
Carcer
Null
Quality
…?

…mostly.  The Null Quality group of figures (Via, Populus, Amissio, and Acquisitio) don’t fall into the same patterns as the rest because…well, they’re all null and void and empty of any single element or quality.  We’ll get to those later.

First, note that the Pure Element, Muddled Element, and Single Quality groups, we see a process of descension from one element to the next.  Descension is the process by which the elemental rows of a geomantic figure are “shifted” downwards such that the Fire line gets shifted down to the Air line, Air down to Water, Water down to Earth, and Earth cycles back up again to Air; I discussed this and the corresponding reverse technique, ascension, in an earlier post of mine from 2014.  Moreover, note that all these groups descend into the proper elements ruling that figure in lockstep, so that if we take the Fire figure from one group and descend it into the Air figure of that same group, the other Fire figures from the other groups also descend into the Air figures of those groups.  That’s actually a pretty neat reinforcing of this new system of assigning elements to the figures, and in a conveniently regular, structural way.

It’s with the Null Quality figures (Via, Populus, Amissio, and Acquisitio) that that pattern breaks down.  We know that Amissio and Acquisitio descend into each other in a two-stage cycle of descension, while Via and Albus descend into themselves without a change.  We can’t use the process of descension like we did before to make a cycle of elements within a quality group of figures, and because of their null quality, we can’t just look at the elements present in the figures themselves to determine what element they might be aligned with as a whole in this system.  So…what next?

Take a close look at the figures we already have charted, and follow along with my next bit of logic.  For one, we know that all the odd figures are either in the Pure Element or Muddled Element group, which means all the even figures must be in the Single Quality or Null Quality group.  On top of that, if we look at the figures that are already charted to the elements, we can note that Fire and Air figures are all mobile, and Water and Earth figures are all stable.  This suggests that Via and Amissio (the mobile Null Quality figures) should be given to Fire and Air somehow, and Populus and Acquisitio (the stable Null Quality figures) to Water and Earth somehow.  We’re getting somewhere!

The Null Quality figures share more similarities with the Single Quality figures because they’re both sets of even figures.  Even though the Single Quality figures follow a process of descension between one element and the next, we also see that figures that belong to opposing elements (Fire and Water, Air and Earth) are also inverses of each other (inversion being one of the structural transformations of geomantic figures, this one specifically replacing odd points with even points and vice versa).  This can be used as a pattern for the Null Quality figures, too, such that inverse Null Quality figures are given to opposing elements. This means that we have two possible solutions:

  1. Via to Fire, Amissio to Air, Populus to Water, Acquisitio to Earth
  2. Amissio to Fire, Via to Air, Acquisitio to Water, Populus to Earth

At this point, I don’t think there’s any structural argument that could be made for one choice over the other, so I shift to a symbolic one.  In many Hermetic and Platonic systems of thought, when it comes to pure activity or pure passivity (though there are many other alternatives to such terms!), Fire and Water are often thought of as perfect examplars, so much so that the Hexagram is literally interpreted as a divine union of masculine/ejective/active Fire (represented by the upwards-pointing triangle) and feminine/receptive/passive Water (represented by the downwards-pointing triangle).  Taking it a step further, in some interpretations of this mystical formation of the hexagram, this combination of Fire and Water produces the element of Air.  If we translate this into geomantic figures, we can consider “pure activity” (Fire) to best be represented by the figure Via (which could, I suppose, be taken as the simplest possible representation of the phallus, being a single erect line, or as the number 1 which is also historically considered to be masculine or active), and “pure passivity” (Water) as Populus (which, likewise, could be seen as the walls of the birth canal or vulva, as well as the number 2 which is considered feminine or passive).  If we give Via to Fire and Populus to Water, this means that we’d give Amissio to Air and Acquisitio to Earth.  Note how this actually works nicely for us, because the Null Quality figure we give to Air is itself composed of Fire and Water, matching with that mystical elemental interpretation of the Hexagram from before.

Now we can complete our table from before:

Fire Air Water Earth
Pure
Element
Laetitia Rubeus Albus Tristitia
Muddled
Element
Puer Cauda
Draconis
Caput
Draconis
Puella
Single
Quality
Fortuna
Minor
Coniunctio Fortuna
Maior
Carcer
Null
Quality
Via Amissio Populus Acquisitio

Next, can we impose an ordering onto the figures given these elemental assignments and quality groups?  Probably!  Not that orders matter much in Western geomancy as opposed to Arabic geomancy, but it could be something useful as well, inasmuch as any of this might be useful.  The order I would naturally think would be useful would be to have all sixteen figures grouped primarily by element—so all four Fire figures first, then the four Air figures, and so on—and then, within that group, the most representative of that element down to the least representative, which would suggest we start with the Pure Element figure and end with the Null Quality figure.  So, which comes second, the Muddled Element or the Single Quality?  I would suggest that the Single Quality figure is more like the element than the Muddled Element figure, because the Single Quality is representative of the…well, single quality that is representative of that element and, though it has some things canceling out within the figure, those things that cancel out based on their corresponding elements active within the figure are still harmonious and agreeable to the overall element itself.  Meanwhile, the Muddled Element is more removed due to the presence of other opposing elements that fight within itself, dragging it down further away from a pure expression of its overall element.  These rules would get us an order like the following:

  1. Laetitia
  2. Fortuna Minor
  3. Puer
  4. Via
  5. Rubeus
  6. Coniunctio
  7. Cauda Draconis
  8. Amissio
  9. Albus
  10. Fortuna Maior
  11. Caput Draconis
  12. Populus
  13. Tristitia
  14. Carcer
  15. Puella
  16. Acquisitio

So, what does this leave us with, and where does this leave us?  We have here a new way to associate the geomantic figures to the traditional elements in a way that’s substantially different from either the usual structural method that I prefer or a more zodiacal method that’s also in common use by authors like John Michael Greer and those immersed in Golden Dawn-like systems, though there is still a good amount of overlap between this kind of elemental assignment and the structural method with eight of the figures retaining their same element (all four Pure Element figures plus Fortuna Minor, Coniunctio, Carcer, and Populus).  This is not a method I’ve encountered before in any geomantic text I’m familiar with, and I’m inclined to say it’s pretty much a novel approach to assigning the elements to the figures, though considering how straightforward the process was, or at least how simple the idea behind it was, I’d be honestly surprised that such a thing hasn’t been thought of before now.

I don’t mean to supplant the major two existing systems of elemental assignments of the geomantic figures (the planetary-zodiacal method or the structural method) or their variations as found throughout the literature; personally, I’m still inclined to keep to my structural method of elemental assignments instead of this combinatoric method, as it’s what I’ve most closely worked with for years, and I’ve gotten exceedingly good mileage out of it.  To me, all the above is something like a curiosity, a “what if” experiment of potential.  Still, even as an experiment, this combinatoric method could have more interesting applications outside pure divination, and I’m thinking more along the lines of alchemy, magic, or other such applications where it’s truly the action, nonaction, interaction, and reaction of the elements themselves among the figures is what matters.  We can alchemically-geomantically view the cosmos as arising from:

  • 4 base substances
  • 16 base entities (the 16 = 4 × 4 different combinations of the elements to form the figures)
  • 256 base interactions (the 256 = 16 × 16 = 4 × 4 × 4 × 4 different addition-pairs of the figures)

So, consider: if you add pure Fire and pure Water, that’d be Laetitia + Albus = Amissio, which gets you a Null figure of balance that leads to an overall condition of Air.  (Fitting, given our explanation of why Amissio should be given to Air at all.)  If you add simple Heat to pure Air, that’d be Fortuna Minor + Rubeus = Laetitia, which also makes sense because, as a figure of Air, Rubeus is primarily wet and secondarily hot; if we reinforce the heat, it becomes primarily hot, and the wet condition gets dried out by the overabundance of heat, transforming Air into Fire.  If we add simple Cold and simple Heat, which would be weird to think about even in alchemical terms except unless we’d isolate those qualities from simpler bases (which we do in geomantic terms), that’d be Fortuna Maior + Fortuna Minor, which would become Via, a technically Null figure given to balanced, ideal, spiritual Fire; how odd!  But we wet the same result when we add any of the opposing Single Qualities, which to me would be like a geomantic division by zero.

I think that this combinatoric model of elemental assignments, what I’m going to call the “alchemical model” as opposed to my usual “structural model” or the Golden Dawn-style “zodiacal model”, could be useful for more mystical, philosophical, or magical meditations on the figures.  It’s not one I’ve completely fleshed out or can immediately agree with given how different it can be from the models I’m used to working with, but I think it does hold some promise and is worthy of exploration and testing, especially in a more magical and less divinatory context.

Another Look at the Letters on the Paths of the Tetractys

The big thrust of this whole mathesis thing was to develop a graphical outline of the structure of the cosmos, both macrocosmic and microcosmic, and allow for the use of letters as vehicles of transformation between different states on the cosmic map.  We decided to use the Tetractys as our overall map, and found a set of 24 paths between the ten spheres of the TetractysEach path was then assigned to one of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet (excepting the obsolete letters digamma, qoppa, and sampi), and boom, we have our graphical cosmic map.  Thing is, all this was experimental and an exercise in logic and extrapolation; it’s been largely untested, but it does provide a neat way to arrange the letters on the Tetractys.

I’ve been feeling comfortable with the assignment of the spheres on the Tetractys to the ten forces: the Monad or Source, light or activity, darkness or passivity, alchemical sulfur, alchemical mercury, alchemical salt, fire, air, water, and earth.  Mapping these forces to their cosmological equivalents, likewise, was fairly straightforward.  What I haven’t been completely comfortable this whole time with, however, was the assignment of letters to the paths themselves.  I’ve guessed from the beginning that, no matter how logical my original assignment was, chances are it wasn’t going to be a permanent assignment.  I all but definitively knew that at least some of the letters on the paths were going to change, and I’d leave it to until I actually got around to exploring the Tetractys through ritual and scrying to change them.

Somewhat ahead of that predicted schedule, however, I asked Hermes and asked for some guidance about the upcoming trips on the Tetractys paths, but unfortunately he was unusually tight-lipped; this was definitely something I would have to explore when the time came.  He did say he’d help open some doors in the meanwhile to help me get a feel for what’d be coming up, however, so I went back and took another close look at what I’ve been discussing since I first laid out how I assigned the letters to the paths.  This time, however, I kept the distinction of direction and the Gnosis/Agnosis Schemata in mind, and started over from there.  I ended up with a wholly new way to assign letters to the paths and, although I’m still feeling a little unsure, this has a much different feel than the first arrangement, and it’s one I conceptually like more.  I warn you, in this post I’m going to be using lots of gaudy color, and since we’ve already been through this kind of analysis once before, I’ll be a little more rough when explaining things.

So, in the Gnosis Schema, we have twelve paths that go around the Tetractys, hitting the sphere of Mercury four times and every other sphere once:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths_circuit1The Agnosis Schema, on the other hand, has the twelve remaining paths that only connect to the non-Mercury middling spheres:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths_circuit2

Consider that the Gnosis Schema is an orderly array of paths, a sequence that follows a strict ordering.  The Agnosis Schema, however, has no such inherent order, and has criss-cross of paths that allow for wandering around without a plan, so to speak.  If we start with these two ideas, we have two sets of twelve paths.  We have 24 letters, which are divvied up between four elements, the meta-element Spirit, seven planets, and twelve zodiac signs.  We can divide the letters and their corresponding forces, likewise, into two groups of twelve: the twelve zodiac signs/simple consonants, and the twelve forces/vowels and complex consonants.  The zodiac signs follow a particular celestial order, and while we can ascribe orders to the elements based on density or planets based on distance from Earth, we also recognize that the elements shift among themselves and the planets move around from place to place.

So, if we assign the twelve zodiac signs to the twelve paths of the Gnosis Schema, in the order that we proceed from Mercury to Air to Fire and so forth, we end up with the paths in the same order as the twelve signs of the Zodiac, as below:

tetractys_paths_gnosis_signs

Alright, easy part’s over.  We still have the twelve paths of the Agnosis Schema to set out, and this is where things get a little more complicated.  First, let’s review what we know about the letters and their stoicheia again:

  • There are two sets of forces: zodiacal and energetic.  Zodiacal forces are the 12 signs of the zodiac, and the energetic forces are the four elements, the meta-element spirit, and seven planets.
  • There are four elements of the forces: fire, air, water, earth.
  • There are three modes of the forces.  In the zodiac forces, these are manifested as cardinal (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn), fixed (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius), and mutable (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces).  In the energetic forces, these are manifested as the ideal (the four elements Fire, Air, Water, Earth), the empyrean (the planets of the Sun, Mercury, Moon, and spirit considered as a planet), and the ouranic (the planets of Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn).
  • We can link the ideal mode of the energies to the fixed mode of the zodiac signs, the empyrean to the cardinal, and the ouranic to the mutable.
  • There are four groups of three zodiac signs and four groups of three energies based on element.
  • There are three groups of four zodiac signs and three groups of four energies based on mode.
  • There are thus six forces (three energetic and three zodiacal) for each of the four elements.
  • There are thus eight forces (four energetic and four zodiacal) for each of the three modes.

Drawn out in tables, we see the following:

Fire Air Water Earth
Ideal Fire Air Water Earth
Empyrean Sun Spirit Mercury Moon
Ouranic Mars Jupiter Venus Saturn
Fire Air Water Earth
Cardinal Aries Libra Cancer Capricorn
Fixed Leo Aquarius Scorpio Taurus
Mutable Sagittarius Gemini Pisces Saturn

We know what the letters and their corresponding forces look like for the Gnosis Schema, and we can use that to help guide us with a bit of geometrical innovation to figure out what the paths on the Agnosis Schema should be based on the geometry of element and mode.

Let’s focus on the elements of the zodiac signs first.  If we divide the twelve Gnosis Schema paths up by element, we get the following four figures: three paths for the Fire signs, three for Water, three for Air, and three for Earth.  Below are the paths color coded such that red paths are Fire, blue are Water, green are Earth, and yellow are Air:

tetractys_paths_gnosis_signs_element_color

The Fire and Water signs both emanate out from the central sphere of Mercury, while the Air and Earth signs emanate out from the three extreme spheres of the Monad, Fire, and Earth.  Note that if we look at the Fire set of signs and Water set of signs separately, we can draw an equilateral triangle that connects the outer points of their paths.  These would give us another three paths for both the elements of Fire and Water to complete the set, which forms the hexagram in the center of the Tetractys, a symbol renowned as the mark of combining fire with water.

As for Air and Earth, on the other hand, it gets a little less clear.  We know from the elements themselves that Air likes to connect and bridge gaps, while Earth likes to close it on itself and separate.  Thus, let’s give Air the three paths in the middle of the outer edges of the Tetractys, trying to reach and form one large triangle, while Earth gets the three paths in the corners of the Tetractys, trying to form three small triangles.  Just as the Fire and Water paths intersect with each other to form a cohesive union, the Air and Earth paths must be joined together (though they don’t intersect) in order to form complete wholes on their own; the triangles that the Earth paths form are completed by Air, and the larger triangle that the Air paths form is completed by Earth.  Thus, we have three more paths for Air and three more paths for Earth:

Note the interplay of elements for the paths with this.  The central hexagram joins Fire and Water together, with one triangle belonging to Fire and the other to Water, and if we include the zodiacal paths that connect the vertices of the triangles, we end up with a 2-dimensional birds-eye look of two interlocked tetrahedrons, one pointing up (Fire) and one pointing down (Water).  The hexagon around the hexagram alternates Air and Earth, and with the six zodiacal paths inside the hexagon, we end up with a 2-dimensional view of a cube facing one of its corners, with its 12 edges bounded by the elements four times each.  Each of the elements comes in contact with all the other elements at least once each by means of the paths on the Tetractys, forming a completely yet regularly mixed whole.

tetractys_paths_gnosis_elements_color

Now we need to figure out the modes of the paths, and this is where things get a little less geometrically clean.  We already know the modes of the zodiacal forces, after all, and if we plot them out by cardinal, mutable, and fixed, we end up with this weird “broken W” shape rotated each way around the Tetractys.  Let’s use orange for cardinal paths, purple for fixed paths, and pink for mutable paths:

Remember, though, that these are for the zodiacal forces on the Gnosis Schema, while we need to figure out the energetic forces on the Agnosis Schema.  Both the Gnosis Schema and Agnosis Schema have four paths for each of the three modes, and we’re trying to divide up the twelve hexagon/hexagram paths of the Agnosis Schema into three groups of four.  We did this a ways back when we were discussing the meditation of the divine name IAŌ on the Tetractys by making three rectangles that orbited the central sphere of Mercury:

We used a similar method to complete the division of elemental forces based on zodiacal mode, but now I think that method was somewhat misguided since it conflated the two, and further it never really resolved the association of the hexagram paths of Air to their forces in a clean way.  Instead, let’s talk about what I mean by the energetic modes of Ideal, Empyrean, and Ouranic:

  • Ideal energies are the pure elements themselves, their most high and abstract concepts and overall form to which the other energies are associated.  These are the four elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.
  • Empyrean energies are the four forces of the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, and Spirit.  The three planets here are those that are those represented by the Triadic rank of the Tetractys, associated respectively with Sulfur, Salt, and Mercury.  These are the high holy forces of Light/Sameness, Darkness/Difference, Motion/Existence, and Spirit/Emptiness.  Although “empyrean” literally means “on fire” and often refers to the abode of the gods/God, I’m using it here to denote a different kind of “heavenly planet” from…
  • Ouranic energies are the four forces of Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.  These are the other four planets that are represented in the Tetrad rank of the Tetractys, and associated respectively with Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  Unlike the empyrean forces, the ouranic forces (also meaning “heavenly” but in a sense closer to “celestial” rather than “divine”) are not planets associated with the process of alchemy, but planets associated with the materials of alchemy, the four elements.  They’re in a sense “lower” than the four empyrean forces.

We have three modes of energetic forces, and we also have three modes of zodiacal forces.  We’ve already established from before that the fixed signs are closest to the elements themselves, so we can associate the zodiacal mode of fixity with the energetic mode of ideality.  Carrying the idea (pun unintended) through, the zodiacal mode of mutability might best be associated with the energetic mode of ouranicity, which leaves us the zodiacal mode of cardinality which can be associated with the energetic mode of empyreality.  This allows us to associate the zodiac forces with the energetic forces quite nicely and cleanly:

Fire Air Water Earth
Primary
Mode
Cardinal Aries Libra Cancer Capricorn
Empyrean Sun Spirit Mercury Moon
Secondary
Mode
Fixed Leo Aquarius Scorpio Taurus
Ideal Fire Air Water Earth
Tertiary
Mode
Mutable Sagittarius Gemini Pisces Virgo
Ouranic Mars Jupiter Venus Saturn

Although my previous attempt to assign the modes to the three elements of Fire, Water, and Earth may have been misguided, I do like how I assigned the three rectangular sets of paths to the three modes.  Thus, the vertical rectangle with short horizontal paths is still given to the fixed/ideal mode, the diagonal rectangle with short down-right paths given to the cardinal/empyrean mode, and the diagonal rectangle with short down-left paths given to the mutable/ouranic mode.  We thus end up with the following combinations of paths based on their mode:

Putting it all together, we now know the mode of every path in the Tetractys:

tetractys_paths_gnosis_modes_color

When we combine our knowledge of what element each path should be along with what mode it should be, knowing already whether it’s a zodiacal force (on the Gnosis Schema) or an energetic force (on the Agnosis Schema), we end up with a new Tetractys of Life with the appropriate letters on each of the 24 paths:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_gnosis_paths

Overall, I like this version of the Tetractys more; it has a different “ring” to it, something a little clearer and smoother, but I’m still unsure as yet whether it’s the right one.  Only exploration and testing will show that out, and whether any adjustment (or outright rewriting) is needed.  What’s interesting, though, is how this might affect our exploration of the Tetractys in a structured way.  Note that we’ve assigned the Gnosis Schema paths to the twelve signs of the zodiac.  The Zodiac is the belt of stars that the Sun and all the other planets travel through over the course of their orbits, and we make one revolution through the Zodiac every year.  Thus, we have a sort of solar schedule for how we travel through the paths: for instance, we make the trip between Mercury and Air during Aries, Air and Fire during Taurus, Fire and Sulfur during Gemini, Sulfur and Mercury during Cancer, and so forth until we end up back at Mercury while we’re in Pisces.

The association of the Zodiac with the Gnosis Schema paths, further, divides the year up into three periods, one for each of the Initiatory Cycles as mentioned before. the first four signs (from the start of Aries to the end of Cancer) to the Hot Initiation (Mercury, Air, Fire, Sulfur); the second four signs (start of Leo to the end of Scorpio) to the Cold Initiation (Mercury, Salt, Earth, Water); and the last four signs (start of Sagittarius to the end of Pisces) to the Cosmic Initiation.  Of course, this is slightly adrift from our notion of having four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, but we do go from a period of cold to hot (heating the year), a period of hot to cold (cooling the year), and a period of just cold (darkest and coldest point of the year).  It’s not hard to make associations between these three quasi-seasons with the three Initiatory Cycles, but of course, my living in the Northern Hemisphere is coloring my views somewhat.

Of course, I don’t think we need to follow the Sun in the Zodiac as we follow the paths in the Tetractys, but it does imply that there’s a natural flow, a cycle that’s inherent in the mechanics of the cosmos.  Consider the three empyrean planets of the Sun, Moon, and Mercury: the Sun only ever goes in one direction through the Zodiac, as does the Moon; Mercury does go retrograde fairly often, but its retrograde periods are also extremely short compared to all the other planets, and is so close to the Sun that it basically is taken along with it.  Spirit, the other empyrean energy, is both lower than and amidst the planets themselves, providing the space and nature for them to exist and coexist at all.  Between the Sun, Moon, and Mercury, there’s a natural flow that pretty much only ever goes in one direction, and that’s around the Zodiac in its proper order.  As the Sun and Moon pretty much define nearly all the natural cycles down here on Earth, it suggests that there’s a natural flow and pull for ourselves to be taken along the Gnosis Schema ever onwards towards gnosis and henosis.

However, we get trapped and caught up by the forces of the other planets and elements, which gets us tangled up and going against the natural flow and rhythm of the Gnosis Schema.  We get swept up in a particular planet’s influence, we get brought down by a particular element’s effects, and we generally get caught up in long periods of retrograde motion and muddled manifestation of forces that keep us from flowing naturally with the cosmos as we should.  In aikido terms, the more stressed we are, the less ki can flow through us; in quasi-Thelemic terms, the more we focus on our temporary will, the less we naturally enact our True Will.  If we could simply incorporate the powers of the planets and elements without being subsumed or dominated by them, we could live with the natural flow of the cosmos to attain our true destinations and ends.  Of course, because of the various influences shining down upon us and emanating from within us, we have to struggle to constantly align and realign ourselves with the natural flow of things.  We have to constantly be on guard so that we don’t fall from Gnosis back to Agnosis; we have to constantly keep ahead of the ghost of Argos so we don’t become trapped once more.

From a Gnostic standpoint, this set of paths makes even more sense than the one before.  While we’re trapped in this world, we’re subject to the seven heavens of planets and their associated archons, which clothe us in misunderstanding and agnosis; they give us false notions of how the cosmos works, as well as how we ourselves work.  But, once we break free of them outside the realm of elements and planets, we enter into the realm of the fixed stars, that starry Eighth Sphere, where we proceed into gnosis.  Quoth the Divine Poemander:

First of all, in the resolution of the material body, the Body itself is given up to alteration, and the form which it had becometh invisible; and the idle manners are permitted, and left to the Demon, and the senses of the body return into their Fountains, being parts, and again made up into Operations.  And Anger, and concupiscence, go into the brutish or unreasonable nature; and the rest striveth upward by Harmony.

And to the first Zone [planet] it giveth the power it had of increasing and diminishing.  To the second, the machinations or plotting of evils, and one effectual deceit or craft.  To the third, the idle deceit of Concupiscence.  To the fourth, the desire of Rule, and unsatiable Ambition.  To the fifth, profane Boldness, and the headlong rashness of confidence.  To the sixth, Evil and ineffectual occasions of Riches.  To the seventh Zone, subtle Falsehood, always lying in wait.

And then being made naked of all the Operations of Harmony, it cometh to the Eighth Nature [sphere of the fixed stars, realm of the Zodiac, etc.], having its proper power, and singeth praises to the father with the things that are, and all they that are present rejoice, and congratulate the coming of it; and being made like to them with whom it converseth, it heareth also the Powers that are above the Eighth Nature, singing Praise to God in a certain voice that is peculiar to them.  And then in order they return unto the Father, and themselves deliver themselves to the Powers, and becoming Powers they are in God.  This is the Good, and to them that know, to be desired.

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

Personally, though I don’t expect this to be the final draft of the Tetractys with lettered paths, I think it’s definitely an improvement, and unless Hermes opens up any more doors in the meanwhile, I expect this to be the system of letters and paths that I’ll use.  If nothing else, it goes to show that there really isn’t just one way to attribute letters to the paths; then again, without having come up with the notion of the Gnostic/Agnostic Schemata, this set of lettered paths wouldn’t’ve been possible.  Still, even using the Schemata as our base, we could still attribute each cycle of Initiations to one of the three groups of energetic forces instead of the zodiac signs, perhaps by giving the empyrean energies to the Hot Initiation, the ouranic energies to the Cold Initiation, and the ideal energies to the Cosmic Initiation.  There are many ways to arrange the paths systematically, so it’s unclear without testing it to see which one works best, if any at all even really matter.  To that end, let’s see how well this particular system can be used.

On the Hymns of Silence

Would you believe me if I said that one of the most powerful prayers, indeed the only true prayer we’re capable of, involves no words or speech at all?  Further, that this prayer is what undergirds every ritual, working, and sacrifice we make to the Source and to the world?

One of the things that Fr. Rufus Opus’ lessons in Hermetic magic teaches is how to get up and running as a Hermetic magician working with the spheres of the cosmos.  This process grounds the magician in working with the four elements that compose this sphere we live in, whether you call it Earth or Malkuth or whatever.  From there, you then begin to work with the forces of the heavens, indicated by the different planets: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  By cycling through these forces, either in conjuration or astral exploration or qabbalistic pathworking or what-have-you, the magician begins to understand the relationship between the heavens and the earth, what is above versus what is below.  Each heaven feeds into the next, such that the forces that come from Saturn feed into Jupiter, which feeds into Mars, all the way down to Earth.  Ascending through the heavens gives the magician a solid footing in each of the forces that collectively build up the world, understanding how things on Earth come to be through the elements and how the elements come to be through the planets.

But the work doesn’t stop there, of course.  The planets themselves are collectively formed from even higher forces, which is sometimes termed “the sphere of the fixed stars”.  Ancient astrologers and astronomers only knew of the seven planets, and guessed at their relative distance from the Earth based on their speed.  Thus, the Moon, having the fastest speed around the Earth, would be the closest planet to Earth, and Saturn, with the slowest speed of the traditional naked-eye planets, would be the farthest.  From this, we get the terms “first heaven” relating to the sphere of the Moon, “second heaven” to Mercury, and so forth.  If Saturn is then the “seventh heaven”, then what lies beyond Saturn would be the “eighth heaven”, but there are no visible naked-eye planets to correspond to such a place.  The ancients then assigned all of the fixed stars, the lights in the sky that don’t move relative to each other like the planets do, to the eighth heaven; this includes all of the constellations of the Zodiac, all of the lunar mansions, and all other fixed stars, constellations, and the like.  This is the furthest boundary between what exists and what does not exist (God), whose membrane exists somewhere between the stars themselves and Saturn.

My first experience with the eighth sphere was something I looked forward to for some time, and I was finally able to attain during the consecration of my ebony Wand of Art last year.  I had done a week straight of conjuration, going through each element and planet in turn for seven days straight, reincorporating those forces within me to prepare me for the final conjuration of Iophiel of the Fixed Stars, the Eighth Heaven, and to call it a memorable experience would be a grievous understatement.  After a lot of conversation with the angel Iophiel, something had finally clicked that Fr. RO had mentioned time and time again on his blog that had enticed me to contact this angel in the first place, the Hymns of Silence:

In the Eighth sphere, we learn to Hymn in Silence. The Hymns are hymns of CREATION. We are creator gods, and the most holy form of worship is the creation of our world. Hymning in silence seems, from my experience, to mean that we get apply the forces of creation at will through methods such as imagining a shape or form, tensing a muscle, and paying attention (focusing awareness) to a certain thing happening. t’s an immediate thing that has a great deal of potential. (from “Seven Spheres in Seven Days: Phase II”, 11/4/2012)

But when you get to the Eighth Sphere, my God, it’s a whole new ball game! The Hymns of Silence are exactly that. In the rituals and rites of the Seven Planetary spheres and the lower realms, you speak and commune and direct, you mix and mingle and create talismans and tools and things. But in the Eighth, youintend and things happen. I’ve learned there are forces released when you make a physical movement with a specific intent empowered by teachings from certain spirits at certain times, and the world just bends a little bit. (from “Abramelin: Hermetic Rite or Hermetic Wrong?” 6/8/2010)

And it’s really weird for me because I’m used to being able to put things into words. But in the Eighth Sphere, you learn to sing hymns of silence in preparation for the Ninth. It’s a matter of directing your intent in worshipful observation, in celebration of the process of manifestation. You tune your observation-with-intent to harmonize with the manifestation current, and you find yourself as the conductor as well as a player in the orchestra. And see, there’s no limit to what can be accomplished. You name a thing, and it responds, and then it returns to where it used to be.  (from “Ch-ch-ch-changes”, 6/24/2010)

This morning in church, I took time during the worship service to pursue the silent hymns of the 8th Sphere. Doing so in the midst of vocal hymns was interesting, and I highly recommend anyone working with Iophial or the Archangels of the Zodiac to take the time on a Sunday morning to go to a church that sings. It doesn’t matter if it’s contemporary or traditional, but if you’ve forgotten the essence of what a hymn to the highest is all about, then you won’t have the context to understand what they can teach. If you’re a pagan, review the Orphic hymns, I’m pretty sure they’re around somewhere. The point is to worship, which is not a debasing or limiting thing at all. IT is freeing, and you can’t begin to understand the image you were made in until you are able to understand what you’re an image of. If that makes sense. My fingers are typing the wrong words lately. (from “The Silver Key”, 3/22/2009)

Each of the spheres has its own “tune”, it’s own note, with our lowest sphere of Earth composed of all of them.  However, Saturn has commonly been depicted as a sphere of silence, of the lowest possible note where only whispers are possible, if anything at all (especially in my own travels in that sphere, or say Alan Moore’s “Promethea” series).  If these seven spheres correspond to the seven basic pitches of Western music, then what exists beyond that?  Because that’s where the Eighth Sphere lies, and even beyond that the Ninth, which is the Source of all other things that exist.  It’s the beautiful music that comes from the Eighth Sphere without sound, the tone without pitch, the vibration with both all and no vibrations at once, that undergirds all other possible music that can be made below it, and this music is the Hymn of Silence.

This isn’t something that Fr. RO made up, either.  It goes all the way back to the beginning of Hermeticism in the Poemander (section 26):

And then, with all the energisings of the harmony stript from him, clothed in his proper Power, he cometh to that Nature which belongs unto the Eighth, and there with those-that-are hymneth the Father.

They who are there welcome his coming there with joy; and he, made like to them that sojourn there, doth further hear the Powers who are above the Nature that belongs unto the Eighth, singing their songs of praise to God in language of their own.

And then they, in a band, go to the Father home; of their own selves they make surrender of themselves to Powers, and [thus] becoming Powers they are in God. This the good end for those who have gained Gnosis – to be made one with God.

Why shouldst thou then delay? Must it not be, since thou hast all received, that thou shouldst to the worthy point the way, in order that through thee the race of mortal kind may by [thy] God be saved?

And the idea is talked about even more at length in Hermes’ Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth to Asclepius:

H: “Lord, grant us a wisdom from your power that reaches us, so that we may describe to ourselves the vision of the eighth and the ninth. We have already advanced to the seventh, since we are pious and walk in your law. And your will we fulfill always. For we have walked in your way, and we have renounced […], so that your vision may come. Lord, grant us the truth in the image. Allow us through the spirit to see the form of the image that has no deficiency, and receive the reflection of the pleroma from us through our praise.  And acknowledge the spirit that is in us. For from you the universe received soul. For from you, the unbegotten one, the begotten one came into being. The birth of the self-begotten one is through you, the birth of all begotten things that exist. Receive from us these spiritual sacrifices, which we send to you with all our heart and our soul and all our strength. Save that which is in us and grant us the immortal wisdom.  Let us embrace each other affectionately, my son. Rejoice over this! For already from them the power, which is light, is coming to us. For I see! I see indescribable depths. How shall I tell you, my son? […] from the […] the places. How shall I describe the universe? I am Mind, and I see another Mind, the one that moves the soul! I see the one that moves me from pure forgetfulness. You give me power! I see myself! I want to speak! Fear restrains me. I have found the beginning of the power that is above all powers, the one that has no beginning. I see a fountain bubbling with life. I have said, my son, that I am Mind. I have seen! Language is not able to reveal this. For the entire eighth, my son, and the souls that are in it, and the angels, sing a hymn in silence. And I, Mind, understand.”

What he had finished praising, [Asclepius] shouted, “Father Trismegistus! What shall I say? We have received this light. And I myself see this same vision in you. And I see the eighth, and the souls that are in it, and the angels singing a hymn to the ninth and its powers. And I see him who has the power of them all, creating those in the spirit.”

H: “I am singing a hymn within myself. While you rest yourself, be active in praise. For you have found what you seek.”

A: “I will offer up the praise in my heart, as I pray to the end of the universe and the beginning of the beginning, to the object of man’s quest, the immortal discovery, the begetter of light and truth, the sower of reason, the love of immortal life. No hidden word will be able to speak about you, Lord. Therefore, my mind wants to sing a hymn to you daily. I am the instrument of your spirit; Mind is your plectrum. And your counsel plucks me. I see myself! I have received power from you. For your love has reached us…Grace! After these things, I give thanks by singing a hymn to you. For I have received life from you, when you made me wise…”

The closest way I can describe the Hymns are something like a combination of recognizing our True Will, joining intentfully into the Pleroma, and the injunction from 1 Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”.  The experience of singing the Hymns is ecstasy in the deepest meaning of the word, making us stand apart from ourselves in rapture.  The act of singing the Hymns is the act of dwelling in the Eighth, no matter where else we might be in mind or body, and to hear the Hymns even once leaves a mark on your own self that can never be erased.  It’s one of those milestones in Hermetic practice that, much like getting contact with the HGA, can never be forgotten nor ignored.  The sound, or thought, or vibration, or whatever-word-to-best-describe-it-that-I-can’t-find always lingers in the mind, like the currents under the surface of water or the bones supporting the body.  It never goes away, even in sleep or meditation, even above earworms that get stuck in the head, even above the most dire worries and concerns we have in this life.  This Hymn is the presence and awakening of Nous within ourselves.

This Hymn is the true and only Hymn we can ever possibly sing.  Any words put to music or used in religious service are ultimately empty without this Hymn, and any ritual done without this Hymn being sung is worthless and ineffective without it.   The good news is that this Hymn is already with us and coming from us, whether we’ve reached the Eighth Sphere or not, though we may never realize it without our eyes being opened.  We may be able to sing snatches of the Hymn, or pick out the tuneless tunes that match it for a particular purpose, but these Hymns are always within us, always being sung.  It’s obtaining access to the Eighth Sphere, however, and really learning about these Hymns that allows us to always be aware of them being sung within and without and around ourselves, and which allows us to intently and willfully sing it whenever we want.

In fact, if we want to be minimalist about it, singing the Hymn is the only ritual action we ever need to do.  The Hymn is the accumulated powers of the Eighth Sphere, the source of all things below it; it is the foundation of the planets, elements, and all that exists.  The only thing more primordial than the Eighth Sphere is God itself, and singing the Hymns not only prepares us for working with God directly as God but also prepares us to work with any other force in the cosmos.  Instead of using elemental magic to change things down here on Earth as they already are, or using planetary magic to change things as they come down to Earth through the planets, the magic of the fixed stars allows us to rig the game before it ever even starts.  You don’t work with a single part or multiple parts of the system, but the system as a whole; you get a broader picture of the harmony of the cosmos and what really needs working on and what’s really in discord rather than what we think is discord.  In singing the Hymns with our entire body, soul, spirit, and mind, we effectively become magic itself, capable of feats unimaginable even to ourselves, since the Hymns allow us to all but tap into Mind directly.

Of course, like anything else in magic, it’s not simply a one-time thing; you don’t just waltz up to Iophiel in the highest discrete sphere possible, get initiated into the Hymns, and be done with it.  Like any meditative or spiritual practice, it takes practice and effort to really get the Hymns to flow through you without discord coming from you; just like your True Will, it takes some work to align and fine-tune ourselves to sing the Hymns of Silence in Silence, with or without words.  We have a lot going on down here with ourselves, and a lot to use reason for, but not all reason is truly reasonable; we may justify what isn’t reasonable to look like reason, and we may happen upon reasonable acts without reason and without knowing why we should really keep doing reasonable things.  Singing the Hymns takes Work, and is another “key” to performing good ritual of any kind, but especially that of Hermeticism.

If any of the foregoing is confusing, I apologize, but this is hard to put into words to begin with, and even my talent for vocalization falls short when I try to describe something that is essentially unspeakable.  The only real advice I have for further clarification is for you to go and do the Work yourselves for this.  Go conjure the angels of the elements and learn their “instruments”, go conjure the angels of the planets and learn their “pitches”.  Understand the principles of the music of the spheres, the harmony that builds up to the crescendo creation of  our world, and with all those understood and incorporated into your own sphere that makes you your own orchestral symphony, go forth into the Eighth Sphere and learn the Music behind the music.  It’s not that hard; you’re born for this.  Go and Sing.

Getting Burnt by the Stars, part 4: Why, Daddy, Why?

Magic burns.  We’ve gone over that enough by now, I think; magic is difficult to do, and even more difficult to do properly.  There are lots of steps one can take (and should take and take and retake again regularly) to help manage the burn, you’re still going to get burnt.  And that’s okay, though it may not seem like it.  Besides, even though one can get burned pretty bad by making mistakes that are, in retrospect, pretty easy to avoid, there’s still going to be burning involved.  One might contrast these two kinds of burning as burning down and burning up, the difference between them being whether one is burning one’s resources for more burnable resources, or burning one’s resources for more rarefied, adamantine treasures.  I keep saying that doing magic and being burnt is worth it, but given the risks associated with it and how one can easily be burned down as one can be burned up, people might not be able to understand why doing magic is worth it.

In the Hermetic view of things, mankind was made in the image of God.  Quoth Hermes Trismegistus from the Divine Poemander:

But the Father of all things, the Mind being Life and Light, brought forth Man like unto himself, whom he loved as his proper Birth; for he was all beauteous, having the image of his Father.  For indeed God was exceedingly enamoured of his own form or shape, and delivered unto it all his own Workmanships. But he, seeing and understanding the Creation of the Workman in the whole, would needs also himself fall to work, and so was separated from the Father, being in the sphere of Generation or Operation.  Having all Power, he considered the Operations or Workmanships of the Seven; but they loved him, and everyone made him partaker of his own order.  And he learning diligently, and understanding their Essence, and partaking their Nature, resolved to pierce and break through the Circumference of the Circles, and to understand the power of him that sits upon the Fire.

This is the big guy up in the highest of all heavens, the Nous, the Great Mind, the Infinite and Almighty Divine Source of All Things, the One Thing, the First Father, but “God” is a convenient word to describe the dude.  In the beginning, God made mankind in his own image and form, which means that we took on pretty much all the qualities of our Father: we were created by the One who creates, so it’s literally in our blood and spirit to create as well.  Creation, then, is a holy and divine act, and when we create our children, our materials, our homes, our lives, our realities, we are ultimately performing a holy act, which can just as easily and conveniently be called “magic”.  Magic is, after all, causing a change in reality to conform to our will, and to cause something to happen is to create the event.

Anyway, so we have the ability to do magic from our divine source, and our license to do it is our birthright.  Once created, we left the nest from whence we were made to go create our own, and in the process encountered the Seven Spheres, other neighborhoods in our divine heavenly hometown; in exploring them, we found the seven planetary governors who happened to be real good friends with our father.  Since they like our father (being, you know, made and employed by him as well), they saw us as their little sibling and really worthy of pretty much everything they had, so they helped us learn how to operate in their own respective spheres and how to work with the things they work with.  Once we learned what we could from them, we said our goodbyes and headed onto the next stop, and so on and so on, and in the process kept learning more about ourselves as we learned more about the Source who created all this.  After all, if the Divine Almighty created all these spheres, then he’s a part of them too, which means we’re a part of them, which means we can work in and with them.

But then, we came across another neighborhood in the hometown:

And having already all power of mortal things, of the Living, and of the unreasonable creatures of the World, stooped down and peeped through the Harmony, and breaking through the strength of the Circles, so showed and made manifest the downward-born Nature, the fair and beautiful Shape or Form of God.  Which, when he saw, having in itself the unsatiable Beauty, and all the operations of the Seven Governors, and the Form or Shape of God, he smiled for love, as if he had seen the shape or likeness in the Water, or the shadow upon the Earth, of the fairest Human form.  And seeing in the Water a Shape, a Shape like unto himself, in himself he loved it, and would cohabit with it, and immediately upon the resolution ensued the operation, and brought forth the unreasonable Image or Shape.  Nature presently laying hold of what it so much loved, did wholly wrap herself about it, and they were mingled, for they loved one another.  And from this cause Man above all things that live upon earth is double: Mortal, because of his body, and Immortal, because of the substantial Man. For being immortal, and having power of all things, he yet suffers mortal things, and such as are subject to Fate or Destiny.  And therefore being above all Harmony, he is made and become a servant to Harmony, he is Hermaphrodite, or Male and Female, and watchful, he is governed by and subjected to a Father, that is both Male and Female, and watchful.

We ended up in the Sphere of the Earth, Malkuth, the Kingdom, the densest and most intriguing stop we’ve made so far in our celestial travels.  We finally saw a form of ourselves in our reflections here, and we thought it looked so cool that we ended up making a body for ourselves in this place which combines the essence of all the other places and spheres we’ve been to so far, and then some.   We ended up making our own body and started willfully inhabiting it, and since our body was made in our form and our form was made in the image of God, our body was also made in the image of God (though a little further removed).  Since everybody loves God, just as God loves everything, just so Nature herself (the power and force of the sphere of the Earth) fell in love with our bodies.  Nature then overwhelmed us in rapture, and we found ourselves in a beautiful love affair with Nature.  The thing is that, just like someone playing hooky from work to fool around all day at home, we ended up getting distracted and forgot about our duties, origins, and purpose in the cosmos.  We became so enamored by Earth that we became earthly instead of heavenly.

This itself isn’t a bad thing, but it does make things weird for us.  We ended up sticking around in our earthly bodies a little too long and forgot where we came from, what we’re capable of, and what we’re supposed to do.  We kept focusing and specializing with earthly, mundane things for so long that we forgot we knew anything else.  We lost sight of our childhood hopes and dreams and settled down in a place we shouldn’t settle down in at a time too early to settle down.  We became more animal than human.  And that’s not good for us.  However, we’ve been used to being here for so long that we’ve gotten comfortable being mundane and strictly material, when we’re really supposed to be more than that and, even if we choose to partake in mundane stuff, we’re not supposed to be utterly reliant on it.  And that’s where the pain of burning up comes in: in order to be heavenly, we have to get used to being heavenly again.  Since what lives up in the heavens are stars, we have to get used to being stars ourselves again.  Since stars are illustrious, powerful, and magnificent because of their burning, so too do we have to burn in order to shine like and outshine the stars themselves.

And that’s why getting burnt by the stars is a good thing, when done properly.  It’s like breaking an addiction: yes, we’re going to have to go through withdrawal, and yes, we may need an intervention or two along the way to make sure we’re on the right track and don’t relapse.  It’s going to suck, but the payoff is worth it, because it brings us back to our senses, it reminds us of who we are, and it helps us see what we can really do and accomplish.  It empowers us to do more spiritually with less materially, and in the process able to do more both spiritually and materially.  As creatures of the Creator, and as creators ourselves, it’s our job to create things that are better for us and the cosmos; this includes the creation of a more perfect, more splendid, and more kick-ass awesome physical reality, but it requires a knowledge of our heavenly, spiritual selves to do that.  In order to shine, we need to strip off the layers of dust and cruft that’ve accumulated long since before we were born; even though the initial polishing might be abrasive, the burnishing and blindingly bright effect will truly be a sight to behold.

Also, there’s a bunch more talk going on around the blogosphere this week about what the Great Work is and why we’re supposed to do it, which you might want to check out from Inominandum, Frater Rufus Opus (who keeps saying things), and Frater MC.  What I put above is my view, which is still in formation and is pretty by-the-book Hermeticism, but it ties in well with what I’m going through and what I’ve experienced, seen, heard, and read.

There’s learning, and then there’s Learning.

“Study hard, party hard.”  That’s one good way to interpret Hermeticism from our point of view as incarnate humans in our material reality.  It also describes my entire college career.

I went to a party school, not gonna lie, but it was a damned good party school.  Highly accredited, good marks, good programs, good location; hell, it’s been put into the so-called Kudzu League, being one step under Ivy League colleges.  I applied knowing that a good number of my friends were going to the same college, moved into the dorms my first year, met a bunch of people, drank a lot of booze, hooked up with a lot of boys, coded a lot of programs, passed and failed countless assignments, and learned a fuckton about computer science, linguistics, Asian culture, and ethics.  It was an awesome time, and I loved it.

I went to college in the first place because, well, it was the proper thing for me to do.  I’ve always had an academic streak, I wanted to get out of the house, my family brought me up to go to college, and a lot of the things I wanted to do could be accessible only through college.  All things considered, it was the thing I should have done, so I did it.  When I applied, I got in with nary a hitch or delay (though FAFSA and student aid forms were and always will be a bitch).  I was accepted and was given a student ID and email which I then promptly linked up to my Facebook account; this gave me a kind of “body” to come in contact with the world, both academic and social, at college.  I moved in, did my work, did my play, graduated, and moved out of my last college apartment.  Now that college is passed and in the past, I’ve stopped using my student ID and email, and my Facebook is now deleted; my “body” I used to interact with the world is effectively dead, but I still keep in contact with my friends and professors.  In other words, I’m still me, but I’ve got a new place and “body” now, and new things to do and learn.

College was awesome, but sometimes I had to remind myself why I was there.  Some weeks, I’d do too much partying, drinking, staying out late, and hooking up.  It took a toll on my grades and ability to function properly, and sometimes affected my ability to stay out and party later on.  Other weeks, I’d do too much studying, staying up late in libraries, and focusing on coding and cramming.  It kept me a shut-in, I’d drop off the face of the earth to my friends, and eventually burned me out from doing much of anything besides sleep.  I came to college to do both: I came to college to learn about computer science and other things, and also to learn about people and how to interact with them (sober or otherwise).  If I stayed up all night every night partying, I’d’ve gotten nowhere, and I’d’ve forgetten that I came to college to learn.  If I stayed up all night every night studying, I’d’ve gotten nowhere, and I’d’ve forgotten than I came to college to learn.  I had to do both, because both were part of the college experience, the experience that I wanted for myself.

In a sense, the desire to learn and experience life in college in a fantastic part of Virginia with awesome people studying amazing subjects?  That could be called a kind of love.  A love for the place I was in, a love for the things I was doing, a love for the world I found myself in.  I went there for a purpose, and Lord knows I enjoyed myself while accomplishing that purpose.  That said, I still did my work and graduated on time, accomplished my purpose and ended my time at college.  I went home, told a bunch of great stories to my parents (who gave me incessant and unending amounts of aid, financially and otherwise), and then moved out again to start a new life with a new purpose.  My love is shifted for another experience and another world.

Some people, though, don’t do the same thing I did.  Some people’s love leads them to other paths that don’t include college.  Some people get hooked on the partying and drinking and fucking, which leads them to failing classes and spending more time than they should at a four-year university, or flunk out entirely.  Some people get hooked on the studying and learning and research, which leads them to pursue more degrees than they intended or than they have money for.  Some people just get dealt a bad hand and get caught up in issues not of their own creation, and something happens to their four-year term that expands, contracts, or stops it entirely.  Some people get sent to college for their own good instead of out of their own goodwills, That’s just life, after all, and different people get caught up in different things.

Now, all that above?  That’s one giant metaphor for human existence, according to some versions of Hermetic philosophy.

According to the Divine Poemander, the text describing the experience that really started Hermes Trismegistus off on his huge godly kick, mankind was made in the image of the Nous, the Mind, the First Father who thought up all of existence in all its forms on all its levels, from the highest and most ethereal to the lowest and most vulgar.  The Nous is all-knowing and ubiquitous, since that’s just its job.  We’re children of the Nous, so we take after our parent in that we want to know and want to be everywhere, but being only parts of the All, we can’t simply do that by simply knowing and being.  To that end, we have to go out into the cosmos from our parent’s wing, we have to explore new places, we have to learn new things, so that we can keep exploring and learning later on.

When we, as ethereal forms fresh from our parent’s house, came upon the district of the cosmos known as Material Reality, we peeked our heads in and wondered what the hell was going on here.  The boss of the place, Nature, saw us peeking in and welcomed us onto her turf, giving us material bodies to move around in and get used to her place.  While here, Nature played the good hostess and offered us whatever we can take grasp of.  “You asked for it.”  After all, we came here to explore and figure out what this place was all about, and while we’re here, we’re getting everything we want.  That’s pretty damn awesome.  We love it here.  It’s, literally, love that brought us here, love that created all this for us.  It’s the same love that brought mankind here that it was which brought me to college: I wanted to go, I was meant to go, it was good for me to go, so I went.

Of course, we can’t stay here forever.  The cosmos in its infinity is big, and Material Reality is only one part of it.  We can’t take our bodies with us after we die, and that’s probably a good thing: although having a body helps us in getting around this place, it might just be extra luggage in other places, if not a dead weight that hurts more than helps.  Even though this is an awesome place with all manner of fun and games, that’s all it is, and we can’t lose sight of the fact that we’re here to learn and get our Work done.  If we dawdle too much enjoying the drinking, partying, and fucking, then we forget that we came here to learn.  If we try to get out without actually experiencing this place and getting to know what Material Reality is all about, then we forget that we came here to learn.  The whole point of Hermeticism is to learn, do your work, and GTFO, but the thing about your work is that it involves all kinds of learning and in proper amounts.  Do that, leave, let your trappings of Material Reality die, and move on to more and different places of the cosmos to keep learning.  How else can we figure out what else there is if we don’t explore?