A Word on the “Temple of the Hermetic One” (and that word is “nope”)

I’ve made a few (usually firebrand) posts in the past regarding social justice. Suffice it to say that I’m an ardent supporter of social justice in all its forms, that I believe and commit to the idea that Black Lives Matter, that trans rights are human rights, and so on and so forth. Besides seeing these things as just being a logical consequence of basic human decency, I also find that these things are justified by the ethics and morality espoused by Hermeticism and any true and proper path of divinity. I want to reiterate that sort of opinion today, of course, but in a different way than I have before. This is a rant, and specifically a denunciation, against a specific group: the Temple of the Hermetic One.

As a rule, I generally don’t like being specific or engaging in call-outs of specific people or groups, but today I need to break that rule and get specific to let the broader occult community know of something rotten, and that something is the so-called “Temple of the Hermetic One” (TotHO). This is a religious community that was founded in 2019, and though they don’t appear to be particularly large (consisting of maybe a handful of leaders and at least some number of initiates), they do seem to have a physical presence in addition to an online one, and appear to have candidates for admission or initiation in multiple places across the world, and have about 2.6k followers on Facebook. They appear (or at least claim) to have a set of teachings and practices based on Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, and a variety of pagan and neopagan traditions.

I bring them up today because one of their leaders by the name of Trismejustus (not the leader, but one of the high-ranking members who appears to have a position of authority within the organization) joined the Hermetic Agora Discord that I participate (and am a mod) in, announcing himself effectively as a representative of that community and saying he’d be happy to take any questions. One of the other mods (specifically the Reverend Erik Arneson, my friend and also owner of the Arnemancy website and podcast) began looking into their website and noticed a trend of troubling tenets, statements, and beliefs they had. I began looking into their website as well as their Facebook page, and also noticed other such disturbing trends. To summarize, we found notions of:

  • Racism, xenophobia, the right of races to self-separate and exclude others from their traditions and practices, striving to uphold genetic/ethnic purity and identity, how we should remove “foreign aspects that were detrimental” from the practices of our ancestors, and statements against racial/ethnic mixing but with no according mention of notions of minority, oppression, or power structures
  • Paganism is, for them, “religiously inclusive but ethnically exclusive”, and kept citing the downfall of Hellenistic/Ptolemaic Egypt because of how corrupt it had become due to ethnic mixing
  • A support of theocracy and absolute rule of the few over the many, while also saying that democracy is a mistake and how Athens was great “in spite of their democracy”
  • Heteronormativity and puritanism, how only sex between men and women for procreation is moral, how philosophers like Plato “engaged in some nasty acts”
  • Anti-vaxx sentiments, how people should use religious exemptions to refuse mandatory vaccinations and how we should instead trust in nature an divinity, how “overcoming ailments naturally is the better option”, and how we should refuse scientific investigation and medical testing regarding the efficacy or safety of vaccines out of hand (notably with no encouragement for those who are willing or able to get the vaccine to do so)
  • Heated, passionate vitriol against anything and everything Abrahamic in any form, even to the point of saying that the Greek Magical Papyri aren’t worth studying due to all their Yahwisty bits (though for some reason being a supporter of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin, a well-known European grimoire, because it’s “not really Abrahamic”)

None of these views made us feel particularly sanguine about their group, so we posed a series of questions asking for clarification on these points in the server’s public chat to the TotHO member, who himself had found the Discord link on the /r/Hermeticism subreddit. After all, the mod team on the Hermetic Agora Discord does actually moderate the community to the point of curating its members, and we do strive to form a place where we can all engage in conversation and discussion on a level terms in a safe environment where we don’t make people feel uncomfortable, but given the tenets and stated beliefs of TotHO, we felt that an explanation was due to clarify, especially as many of these beliefs and stances are prevalent in the more extreme wings of our culture and occulture today using the same lines of thought and argument as what TotHO was appearing to use.

While waiting for their representative to get back to us, another member of TotHO joined the Discord server, since apparently the link was shared in their community as well. They began to answer the questions we posed to the leader who had earlier joined, and it did…not go well. In the course of trying to defend an ethnicity’s right to self-identify/separate/exclude, they also upheld the notion of preventing races from mixing in general while also not clearly answering questions regarding whether or not they supported racial supremacy to the effect that they showed that they did, indeed, support it. They were subsequently banned for not only engaging in racist dialog and ideology on our server, but also for disrespect towards some of our members (they cussed them out for raising a reasonable objection to some of the things this person was saying).

Shortly after this other member of TotHO was banned, the earlier representative of TotHO got back to the chat and began answering the questions we had posed. While defending the conduct of the earlier member, they refused to answer the objections we had raised regarding their statements on racial/ethnic purity or against racial/ethnic mixing. While using tokenism several times (“we have a black member!” “we have a gay member!”), also said some pretty awful stuff regarding queer folk, not just that:

Being gay, as a personal matter, is fine. However, we do have a big issue with the modern LGBT movement (as does this member im speaking of) because its a tornado of lust situated on disgusting and profane acts to the body. Thus, being gay should be a personal matter and not a widely socially acceptable faucet.

And yes, they are entirely degenerate and I will vote for any law that would restrict their operations.

Hilariously, they also said that:

Weak spined people are the reason Paganism, and even Hermeticism, gets laughed at. There’s a reason why you guys hang out in a discord all day and never accomplish anything.

I can tell by the mannerisms of this entire group that you all probably watched a few E.A Koetting videos and looked up Trismegistus on a quote website.

(Cute, right? I thought so, too. Strange that they’d end up mocking a server they only just joined of their own accord, but then, it’s a tactic that’s all too common by particular unsavory users on the Internet.)

When mentioned as a leader of TotHO (given that they stated that their position was as a magister), they said that they are “not the Leader” but that they “serve the Leader”, which is not just cryptic but also unsettlingly creepy. After many people in the server began raising objections left and right to the things they were saying and how they were saying it, they ended up resorting to the usual troll tactics of mocking, denying earlier statements made, and the like. Perhaps needless to say, they were banned.

Now, I’m not usually in the habit of telling people who or what organizations they should associate with, but in this case, I have to make it clear my thoughts on this “The Temple of the Hermetic One”. Based not only on their stated tenets and beliefs on their website and public social media presence but also on the stated opinions, actions, and behaviors of their members (both in leadership as well as non-leadership positions), this is not an organization I could ever recommend to anyone, and instead recommend all those to stay away from this group. We all know that the past few years have seen a strong surge in fascist, far-right, authoritarian, and conspiracy theory-laden groups obsessed with playing the victim as well as trying to take power for themselves, and it would appear that TotHO is another such group, which is unfortunately playing at pretentions of being a spiritual or religious organization and is making a mockery of the Neoplatonic and Hermetic virtues they claim to cherish so much. They inspire no confidence in me and, beyond this denunciation I make of them, are not worth the time or effort to speak of. I make this denunciation for the benefit of the occult community as a whole, given their inclinations towards some pretty shitty views and approaches to humanity, and would hope that none that I know would deign to be a part of them. And, likewise, I hope that any such members of TotHO who happen to read my blog reconsider their membership and what it means to be a decent fucking human being, and that I hope that anyone who would persist in maintaining or holding these abominable views on their fellow humans has anything they use from my writings blow up in their face until they learn how to be a better human being. After all—and I want to make this clear—I don’t make enemies out of others nor do I want or care to, but TotHO has made themselves an enemy to me and to the well-being of humanity as a whole. I hope for their hearts to be enlightened in wisdom and sense, and that they learn to move past the mistakes they’re making and to heal the hurt they’re causing.

I mean, hells below, I’d rather give the Kybalion a full license to appropriate the term “Hermetic” compared to whatever miasmatic bullshit this group manages to use it for.

TL;DR: stay the fuck away from this community of racist, homophobic assholes.
End rant.

EDIT: It’s not just me and Erik that have picked up on this, but others have as well. In a review left on their Facebook page on June 21, 2020, someone made the following remarks:

This page displays some knowledge of Orphic, Platonic and Hermetic texts and ideas. However, the authors of this page do not appear to be able to comprehend these texts in the original language in which they were written. Nor do they have an appreciation for the methods of Platonic Philosophy, which involve using dialectical logic to reach knowledge, and building on such knowledge using the same logic. This is what Plato did and what later Platonists did by building on the logic based knowledge provided by Plato using logic. Instead, the authors of this page rely on belief and dogma. These two deficiencies – apparently not understanding the language in which the texts were composed and replacing dialectical logic based knowledge with belief and dogma – lead the authors into misinterpretations and misrepresentations of the tradition they claim to uphold and present. The racialist/nationalist position this page promotes is one example of such an error.
One of the questions I posed to Trismejustus (which went unanswered) was what the qualifications were for him and his fellow leaders to start initiating people as priests, what scholarly or academic background they might have, whether they have had any formal training as priests by any external pagan community like Cherry Hill, or the like. Someone else I was in contact with on Twitter who knew the founder of TotHO noted that they were earnest, though young and precocious, and for them to leap to priesthood on their own appeared to be jumping the gun. All told, it just looks like this is a group that is not just racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and fascist, but also are woefully underresearched and unprepared to actually engage with the matters of philosophy and religion and mysticism in any serious way that they deserve. Again: just don’t bother.

Colored Views

I recently saw someone on my Twitter feed post a sentiment along the lines of annoyance that people still use the term “white magic” to market or label things in the occult,   The annoyance stemmed, according to them, because the use of “white” to mean “pure” or “good”, and “black” to mean “impure” or “evil”, has significant racist underpinnings.  It got into a kind of mini-debate where I honestly don’t get what there is to be offended about the terms, and that this person wanted the language to change since clearly it has an impact on the occult community with notions of social racism and that the use of such terms acts as a shaming mechanism.

This person also has a Tumblr, and as my witful sister once said about people on that network, “I had no idea there were so many things to be offended about”.

The use of white to mean purity and black to mean impurity goes a long, long way back before the civil rights era or, as far as I can tell, the use of skin color for social discrimination.  Many color associations are ancient, if not instinctual to humans based on our own evolution, and many others are based on traditions and beliefs that go as far back as the beginnings of society itself.

  • The Bible, arguably a foundational document in Western culture, contains many uses of white and black.  The Asperges Me has the phrase “wash me and I will be whiter than snow”.  God separated the darkness from the light on the First Day of Creation.  There are many injunctions to keep pure with white clothes in the Old and New Testaments.  White is associated with innocence, sacrifice, and purity, a la Jesus as the Sacrificial Lamb.  Black and darkness are associated with evil, ignorance, demons, and the like.  (Just as a note, the people who wrote these books were decidedly not white.)
  • Ancient Greek religion considered white animals appropriate for the celestial gods and black ones for the underworld gods.  They also considered the black underworld to be the home of pains, Furies, tortures, and the like, while the white heavens were the home of the beautiful gods and Olympos.  Hades was considered to be a gloomy, dim, dark place for the dead, and Tartarus was said to be the darkest pit of them all for the most wicked.
  • Kali, a violent destroyer purger goddess in Hinduism, is portrayed with black or dark-blue skin, and whose name means “dark one”.  She, however, is often seen as a fearful figure, but has powers for a kind of hard-to-fathom cosmic good, as well.
  • Asian cultures often use white in funerary and purification rituals.
  • Yoruban mythology has the orisha Obatala, the King of White Cloth, good for purification, cooling down, and being detached from drama and pain.  Babalu Aye, the orisha of death and disease, has dark colors like black and purple.  (And these people, who are based in modern-day Nigeria, are most certainly not white.)
  • Cornelius Agrippa mentions that prayers and holy work should always be done with light present, and the Heptameron rituals offer a blessing to purify fire and incense for light and spirit to cast out any darkness or deception from the working area.
  • In ancient Egyptian thought, black was associated with Osiris, the god who died and was reborn, and also with fecundity and fertility, since it was the color of the fertile life-sustaining black soil that remained after the Nile floods each year.

These are only a very few examples I can pull off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are many more some of my readers can think of.

Why might we have had these associations?  Honestly, because we see them in the world.  White things turn black with dirt, grime, and mold.  Food that turns black from another color tends to indicate that the food has gone bad and may make one sick or die when ingested.  Corpses decompose and rot, turning dark colors, over time.  Diseases often leave black marks or sores.  Things that are consumed in fire become blackened and charred.  Metal becomes tarnished and dark.  Nighttime, a time of blackness, is when we cannot see easily and more things can more easily harm or kill us in the cover of shadow than in the daytime.   And so forth, and so on.  These color associations are as old as many others, such as red indicating life and vitality, blue indicating peace or wisdom, gold indicating nobility or wealth, and so on.  Does that make white better than black?  No.  Does that make black worse than white?  No.  They have different purposes for different ends.  Neither is better than the other, just as gold isn’t a better color than silver, or blue over orange.  They have different purposes according to their hue and saturation; that’s it.

Of course, that apparently didn’t matter to this one person.  Apparently, because it’s got such a long history and because it’s so entrenched in our symbolic languages, that’s all the more reason for us to stop using it entirely.  It’s apparently harmful, ignorant, and disastrous to people’s mindsets, and acts as a shaming mechanism to put people of color down.  This person linked me to a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., on this:

Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything black, ugly and evil. Look in your dictionary and see the synonyms of the word “black.” It’s always something degrading and low and sinister. Look at the word, “white.” It’s always some pure, high and. I want to get the language so right that everybody here will cry out, “Yes I’m Black and I’m proud of it. I’m Black and I’m beautiful”.

…and this quote didn’t really further their argument in any way I could see.  In fact, their argument (as little as they made before the discussion was ended and they rage-unfollowed me) didn’t seem to amount to anything more than “the use of white and black color symbolism is always racist, period”.   I assume, to expand on what they didn’t, that because we use the word “black” to describe people of African descent, all the associations of color we have with black automatically are transferred to them, so we should get rid of the associations, because all those associations are demeaning when applied to humans.  And, to an extent, I agree; calling someone impure, evil, ignorant, and the like is a dick move, even if they are those things.  But calling them those things by means of a color that kinda-sorta resembles the optical result of the melanin in their skin?  That’s even more of a dick move, because it ignores their actual state and misapplies the term itself entirely.  Beating this term and all its associations of ignorance, evil, and the like into their heads because they’re described with a black skin tone is racism, flat out, but that’s not a function of the color having those attributions.  That’s a function of the person being a racist and a douchebag.

To me, the MLK quote indicates that people do, in fact, use the term “black” to signify both evil and people of African descent at the same time.  MLK, as I understand him, wanted to break that association as applied to people.  As a Christian minister, though, he was surrounded with the color associations day in and day out, since it formed a lot of his ethics, religious background, philosophy; these things, however, are meant in a spiritual, metaphoric sense, not necessarily physical.  MLK doesn’t believe that those same associations should apply to people on the basis of their skin color, which is a physical attribute detached from spiritual color, and I agree with that.  Besides, as a magician, I find lots of uses for white and black that do, in fact, correspond to these spiritual meanings.  For purity and blessing and elevation works, I’ll wear white clothes; for cursing, underworld, or grieving jobs I’ll wear black ones.  This is something completely different from skin color; discrimination with skin color came long, long after the spiritual associations of the colors white and black.  This person thinks we should get rid of the color associations; why not, instead, get rid of the racism?

Do I think that the use of white and black in the occult can be bent for social discrimination?  Sure it can!  This would be to abuse the associations, however, and would make one equivalent to European colonists and slavetraders who thought that one with dark skin had “the mark of Cain” or was dumber or whatever.  One’s skin color has no effect on one’s propensity for magic, physical purity, or spiritual purity; it’s a non-issue.  To associate “black magic” with evil and also with black people is to do a disservice to the color itself; to think that black people are always up to no good is mere racism, outside of any occult meaning of the term, and to think that black people cannot do white magic is disastrously wrong on so many levels.  To use metaphysical associations of color to justify social and worldly racism is racism.  It’s just another tool racism can use to propagate itself, but it isn’t a function of the colors themselves.  And if you’re the one doing this?  You’re racist.  Cut that shit out.

Do I think we should use the terms “white magic” and “black magic” at all?  Hell no!  These terms are utterly stupid and fail to illustrate the nuances and fine gradations within the Work as a whole and individual workings.  A noble, magnanimous prayer for victory for one’s country in war necessarily prays simultaneously for the destruction, demolition, and death of the other country (cf. Mark Twain’s The War Prayer).  A working for justice for one who is harmed often harms the one who perpetrated it.  A ritual to kill someone in power often saves those that a megalomaniac leader would torture in turn.  Any particular ritual or working can affect the world in dozens, hundreds, myriads of ways, and to say that “this spell only does good” or “this spell only does bad” is flat-out wrong.  The use of these labels simply isn’t useful in learning, working, or dealing with magic, and should be abandoned.

Do I think the terms “white” or “black” have any use in magic?  Gods, yes.  I think you’ll find the use of colors well-written about on this blog, even in this very post, and white and black are no exception.

Do I think the terms “white” or “black” can be used as a shaming mechanism?  I…guess?  I mean, if you care about labels and descriptors applied by others so much that it forces you to do something or prohibits you from doing something, that’s your business.  If you care about results and getting work done, then it’s not going to matter so long as you actually make your plans and follow them through.  In other words, this kind of “shame” is beneath me and a waste of my time.  Worrying about how other people, with their itty-bitty tiny sliver of human perception seeing no more than an infinitesimal fraction of the cosmos, are going to label your workings when they’re not involved and operating with incomplete knowledge, is not going to help you.  Now, if you’re the one trying to shame others by using these terms, what the hell is wrong with you? It’s honestly none of your business to judge and shame others.  Everyone from Jesus Christ (“judge not, that ye be not judged”) to Aleister Crowley (“it is necessary that we stop, once for all, this ignorant meddling with other people’s business”) has said to stop worrying about what other people are doing and start worrying about yourself, your own actions, and your own will.  It does often happen that people are conditioned by other people using shaming mechanisms or reinforcement techniques and are actually affected by this; it’s shitty, and it happens.  Instead of breaking the associations, which are in fact helpful to have from both a magical and an evolutionary standpoint, why not instead stop using the shaming mechanisms to oppress others, and help those who are oppressed and conditioned to break out of that conditioning through philosophy, magic, and spiritual growth/healing?