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.

August Updates: back to routine, I guess!

What a time it’s been, y’all.  After a bit of annoying circumstances that pushed it back a few days, I gave my presentation for the Salem Witchcraft & Folklore Festival 2020, hosted by the good people at the Salem Summer Symposium.  By the accounts of those who attended, my class, Spelling by Spelling: Greek Alphabet Divination & Magic, went well, and even I’m pleased with it, having gotten a bit of extra time to polish up the presentation, and having ended about on target (with ten minutes leftover for questions instead of fifteen).  I’m frankly surprised that so many people still managed to show up as they did, rescheduled as it was from a Saturday afternoon to a Monday evening, and I want to express my deepest thanks and appreciation to all the attendees as well as to the organizers of the symposium and festival for hosting such a wonderful event even in light of the current awkward situation of the Reign of the Lady of Crowns.  Unfortunately, since it was just a two hour class, I didn’t get to cover half the things I originally wanted to, so I guess I’ll just have to do a separate series of classes sometime in the next year to make up for that, but that’ll be in the future.  If you didn’t manage to catch my class or any of the other amazing classes offered by SWFF2020 live, you can still register for the recordings through the end of 2020, so check out their website and sign up for everything that catches your interest, or get a package deal for multiple classes at once!  The recordings will be up in the coming days after they finish processing and uploading them, so stay tuned to their website for more information.

I consider my little hiatus from blogging well-spent, though it’s not like I wasn’t busy in general these past six-ish weeks.  It seems that I can’t not avoid writing one way or another, and I’ve been pretty busy on Twitter lately with a series of threads that I’d like to share pontificating or didacting about this or that.  To be fair, Twitter these past few weeks has been…interesting, between everything being cakes to newbie witches hexing the fae and also the Moon, to more shade being thrown against the Kybalion (which, I maintain, is more hernia than Hermetica), but a few of the highlights I wanted to share of my own twatting (which can be considered blog posts in their own right) would be these:

  1. That men (of all types) need to listen to women (of all types) more in general
  2. How our words can offend and injure even when we don’t mean for them to
  3. How we shouldn’t bias ourselves regarding accusations towards us based on what we hear alone about them and from whom
  4. How we present ourselves can affect how people react to us
  5. Nobody gets to buy any more crystals until you first learn how to treat, use, and work with the rocks in your own driveway/alleyway first
  6. How magic, spirits, and curses don’t need belief and how revealed experience is Hermetically superior to both discursive logic and faith
  7. An unfortunate incident with someone who asked for way too much information in a rather wrong way
  8. Follow-up to the preceding: on how and why closed traditions limit knowledge and teaching
  9. Why non-Jews working with or venerating Lilith most likely isn’t cultural/religious appropriation
  10. What learning from books really means and how to read them properly
  11. An unfortunate incident when someone tried to use one of my copyrighted designs for their own advertising
  12. Accuracy is not precision, but both are needed for diviners

All that in addition, of course, to the usual shitposting and antics I get up to on Twitter.  Somehow I’ve only gained followers over the past few weeks, which is nothing short of a profound mystery to me.

For those with a linguistic bent, Dr. Christian Casey of Brown University is hosting a free online course for teaching Sahidic Coptic.  If you have an interest in translating Coptic works from the early Christian, Gnostic, and Hermetic traditions or have an eye on getting at the non-Greek more-Egyptian magical papyri, this is something to keep an eye on!  The classes will be weekly on Saturdays at 1pm Eastern US time, starting September 5 and continuing for 30 weeks, so sign up if you’re interested!  I’ve signed up and hope to keep up with it, but we’ll see.

I’ve also picked up Final Fantasy XIV again.  I had a dream during a nap one day a few weeks back that I was playing again, and BOOM the desire hit me to play again, even though I hadn’t played in about two or three years.  So, after about two weeks and no small amount of enticing from some other magicians and astrologers who also play, I’ve caught up on all the main story content from patches 4.3 to 5.3 (holy shit you guys, I cried so much), though I’m still getting caught up on the side story and other stuff.  I’m trying to limit myself mostly to weekends for playing and spending the rest of the week researching and writing as ever, but I’ve definitely missed the game and my friends who play it.  Plus, this gives me a good reason to pick up my writing about the Deck of Sixty, the in-game divination deck used by the Astrologian job, and how it can be used and expanded upon using in-game lore and other canonical information given by the lorebooks to be used as an actual method of divination we ourselves can use.  I’ve written about it in a publicly-viewable spoiler-free Google Doc for those who are interested in checking out the system, such as it is.  (And yes, I’m still Smoking Tongue on Aether/Midgardsormr.)

I’m sure other things have happened these past six weeks that have escaped my memory, but in general, things have been largely quiet and peaceful for me on my end.  Still at home and rarely leaving the house, still working from home full time, still annoying the cats, still keeping up with housework and ritual work as best as I can.  I wish I could say I’ve caught up on sleep, but we all know that’d be a lie.  On the whole, things go well and busily as ever, and I’m happy with that.  I hope the past few weeks have been at least as nice for you all, dear readers, and that things continue to improve for us all, wherever we might be and whatever we might be doing.

With that, I suppose it’s time to figure out what to write about next.  I’ve got a few ideas lined up, but it’ll take me a few days to get back into the swing of things.  At least, with the presentation for SWFF2020 over, I can devote more time back to my other projects again—and start figuring out what to propose for next year’s symposium, too.  Plus, with it getting to be towards the end of summer (finally), the busy season is really going to start ramping up soon, so there’s always more to do.

On Making the House Chart from the Shield Chart

I never expected this blog to hit its 800th post, but here we are.  It’s a good milestone to meet, and one for which I’m proud!  And for this post, well…this is one of those cases where I know I’ve written about the subject before, but this is a subject that I think deserves to be written more clearly and explicitly, because I have some Thoughts and Opinions on the subject, and the subject has come up several times in the past few weeks between different groups of people that keeps it on my mind.  So, get ready, dear reader, because we’ve got a rant ahead of ourselves to make to make a point about a particular subject in geomancy.

The subject in question?  How to construct a geomantic House Chart from its corresponding Shield Chart.  As for why we’re spending almost 6000 words on the subject, well…let’s begin, shall we?

The idea here is simple: given a Shield Chart with its sixteen figures, the latter twelve (composed of the Daughters, Nieces, and Court figures) being generated from the first four Mothers according to the usual rules of geomancy, we take the first twelve of those figures (the four Mothers, the four Daughters, and the four Nieces) and plop each into one of the twelve houses of a House Chart.  In this way, not only do we have the benefit of using the usual set of techniques for the Shield Chart, but we can use the grammar of an astrological horoscope to interpret the figures, as well, interpreting each figure as being in a particular house.  The question arises—and, I should note, only for those in modern European/Western practices of geomancy—about how to go about putting, arranging, and allotting the figures into the House Chart.

The traditional method, as John Michael Greer has said in his books on geomancy, is “simplicity itself”.  Simply give the figures of the Shield Chart to the houses of the House Chart in the order that we traditionally make them: the four Mothers go into the first four houses, the four Daughters into the second four houses, and the four Nieces into the last four houses:

Mothers Daughters Nieces
First House I House V House IX
Second House II House VI House X
Third House III House VII House XI
Fourth House IV House VIII House XII

Easy, simple, straightforward.  Not only is this easy, but it’s also the oldest and most traditional method that we see across the vast majority of all geomantic texts classical and modern—and not in just European geomancy, but in other forms of geomancy, as well.  Although the notion of a House Chart separate from the Shield Chart, or at least the notion of drawing and presenting the figures in a horoscope-type format either in addition to or instead of the traditional Shield Chart layout, certainly seems to be a European thing, we see certain positions of figures in a Shield Chart described in the same language and significations of the twelve houses where we’d otherwise expect them, such that the First Daughter talks about children and games (House V), the Second Niece regarding kings and judges (House X), and the like.  We see it in Arabic and Persian geomantic texts as much as we do Latin and French ones, and we even see the same system at play in a variety of African geomantic systems, including Malagasy sikidy, which although it has developed in its own unique way is still recognizably geomancy.  Even one of my noble academic colleagues, the good and brilliantly-learned Dr. Matthew Melvin-Koushki, who has gone over many dozens of pre-19th century Persian and Arabic geomantic works, hasn’t seen evidence yet to the contrary, and I’ve only ever seen this traditional association and allotment in any pre-modern (and most modern) such texts I can get my hands on and in any discussion with my Middle Eastern and South Asian geomancer colleagues.  It would seem that the use of the language or grammar of the twelve astrological houses of the horoscope has been used from a super early date in the practice of geomancy, if not going back to the very origins of the art itself, and has been used the whole world over for a thousand years.  If there’s any one house allotment system to use based on tradition, popularity, or commonality, it’s this one.  It’s quite accurate to say that the first twelve positions of the Shield Chart (or “fields”, as I’ve elsewhere called them) really are and have the same meaning as the twelve houses of a horoscope, quite as they are.

The venerable Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, however, has different thoughts on the matter.  In his (possibly spurious) Of Geomancy, usually bundled with his Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, he first talks about the traditional method of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart as we would otherwise expect:

And these 8 Figures do make 8 Houses of Heaven, after this manner, by placing the Figures from the left hand towards the right: as the foure Matres do make the foure first Houses, so the foure Filia doe make the foure following Houses, which are the fift, sixt, seaventh, and eighth: and the rest of the Houses are found after this manner; that is to say, out of the first and second is derived the ninth; out of the third and fourth the tenth; out of the fifth and sixth the eleventh; and out of the seventh and eighth the twelfth: By the combination or joyning together of two Figures according to the rule of the even or uneven number in the remaining points of each Figure.

But then Agrippa brings up another notion:

And this which we have declared in the common manner observed by Geomancers, which we do not altogether reject neither extoll; therefore this is also to be considered in our judgements. Now therefore I shall give unto you the true Figure of Geomancy, according to the right constitution of Astrologicall reason, which is thus.

As the former Matres does make the foure Angles of an House, the first maketh the first Angle, the second the second Angle, the third maketh the third Angles, and the fourth the fourth Angle; so the four Filiae arising from the Matres, doe constitute the foure succedent Houses; the first maketh the second House, the second the eleventh, the third the eighth, and the fourth maketh the first House: the rest of the Houses, which are Cadents are to be calculated according to the Rule of their triplicity; that is to say, by making the ninth out of the first and fifth, and the sixth our of the tenth and second, of the seventh and eleventh the third, and of the fourth and eighth the twelfth.

Although Agrippa notes that the “common manner observed by the Geomancers” is what should arguably be used (a valid interpretation of “therefore this is also to be considered in our judgments”, and which he simply accepts without praise nor disdain), he himself uses a different method, which is to give the four Mother figures to the four angular (or cardinal) houses, which are Houses I, IV, VII, and X—or, rather, to Houses I, X, VII, and IV, in that order.  Although the numbering of houses in the House Chart proceeds counterclockwise from the Ascendant, Agrippa allots the figures in clockwise order, because this is the direction of the passage of the Sun: House I represents the eastern horizon where the Sun rises, House X the zenith of the skies where the Sun is found at midday, House VII the western horizon where the Sun sets, and House IV the nadir of the skies where the Sun is found at midnight.  Once the Mothers are put in the angular houses, the Daughters are then put in the succedent houses, again clockwise (so Houses II, XI, VIII, and V, in that order).  So far, so good, right?

What would then follow, as logic should dictate, is that the the remaining Nieces into the cadent houses, again clockwise (so Houses III, XII, IX, and VI, in that order)—but Agrippa breaks from the usual method here.  Instead of giving the Nieces to the House Chart, Agrippa simply makes new figures entirely:

  • House III (which would be the First Niece) is instead the sum of the figures from Houses VII and XI (Third Mother and Second Daughter)
  • House XII (which would be the Second Niece) is instead the sum of the figures from Houses IV and VIII (Fourth Mother and Third Daughter)
  • House IX (which would be the Third Niece) is instead the sum of the figures from Houses I and V (First Mother and Fourth Daughter)
  • House VI (which would be the Fourth Niece) is instead the sum of the figures from Houses II and X (Second Mother and First Daughter)

This is “according to the Rule of their triplicity”, which is to say that the figures in a cadent house are produced from the sum of the figures of the angular and succedent houses in that same triplicity, i.e. element.  Thus, House VI, which is associated with the mutable earth sign of Virgo, is produced from the sum of the figures from House II (associated with the fixed earth sign Taurus) and House X (associated with the cardinal earth sign Capricorn).  This is what we see in Agrippa’s example chart (the original version in Turner has errors, but Tyson’s version is corrected), where we see Laetitia in House VI.  The corresponding Shield Chart has Cauda Draconis as the Fourth Niece, but there is Acquisitio in House II and Puer in House X, and Acquisitio + Puer = Laetitia.  Also note how the Shield Chart has Populus as the Third Niece, but Populus does not appear in the House Chart at all.

Broken out into triplicity arrangements, what we see is this (with the expected Niece placements noted in strikethrough text):


Let’s be clear here: what Agrippa is doing in his House Chart construction is that he’s taking a huge leap away from the traditional practice of geomancy, and instead taking a heavily astrologized and inventive approach to coming up with a House Chart.  In eschewing the Shield Chart, Agrippa’s really only making use of geomantic process and symbolism without actually performing geomantic divination properly; his method is an offshoot and derivative of geomancy, not a mere variation of it.  It’s like how Gerard of Cremona’s On Astronomical Geomancy is neither proper geomancy nor is it proper astrology, but a novel mix halfway between the two that becomes its own thing, a form of sortilege with astrological symbolism in an astrological grammar produced by geomantic processes.

What’s interesting here is that I’ve never really seen Agrippa’s exact approach put into practice by…well, anyone, really.  This method of developing a House Chart by putting the Mothers into the angular houses, Daughters into the succedent houses, and Nieces…well, rather, the sum of particular pairs of Mothers and Daughters into the cadent houses according to their shared triplicity is not something I’ve encountered in any other geomantic text besides this one (possibly spurious) text by Agrippa.  It could be that Agrippa may have obtained this method from some innovative geomancer before his time, but I can’t find any record or hint of that; to my mind, it’s more likely that Agrippa himself was the innovator of this method of developing a House Chart based on (but not making use of the entirety of) a Shield Chart by only using the “original” points from the Mothers, which were transposed (but not fundamentally altered) into the Daughters, then using his own astrological reasoning to complete the House Chart using geomantic addition but not the usual addition algorithm from the Shield Chart.  Why?  Well, we can take a guess, from his Second Book of Occult Philosophy, chapter 53, “that no Divination without Astrology is perfect”:

We have spoken in the foregoing Chapters of the divers kindes of Divinations: But this is to be noted that all these require the use and rules of Astrology, as a key most necessary for the knowledge of all secrets; and that all kinds of Divinations whatsoever have their root and foundation in Astrologie so, as that without it they are of little or no use; yet Astrological Divination, in as much as the Celestials are causes and signs of all those things which are, and are done in these inferiors, doth give most certain demonstrations by the situation, and motion onely of Celestial bodies, of those things which are occult or future; of which we shall in this place speak no further, since of this Science huge Volums have been wrote by the Ancients, and are everywhere extant.

…Also Geornancy it self the most accurate of Divinations, which divines by points of the earth, or any other superfices, or by a fall, or any other power inscribed, doth first reduce them to Celestial figures, viz. to those sixteen which we above named, making judgement after an Astrological manner, by the properties and observations thereof: and hither are referred all natural Divinations by lots whatsoever, the power whereof can be from no where else then from the heaven, and from the minde of them that work them. For whatsoever is moved, caused or produced in these inferiors, must of necessity imitate the motions, and influences of the superiours, to which, as to its roots, causes, and signs it is reduced, the judgement whereof is shewed by Astrological Rules.

Even though Agrippa puts geomancy on a level above other forms of divination (mostly sortilege), he still subjects it to astrology and claims that it works because of astrology, and that only when “making judgments after an Astrological manner”.  Agrippa is not content to let geomancy be geomancy as geomancy always was, but to essentially subjugate it and make it obey his understanding of astrological concepts applied to something that isn’t astrological in nature.  It’s true that geomancy does (or, more accurately, can) take a hefty amount of influence from the grammar and symbolism of astrology, but geomancy was still always its own thing from the get-go.  It would seem that Agrippa disagrees, and he attempted to “correct” it by making it as astrological as possible by eschewing the figures of the Shield Chart in chart of his own form of generation of figures in the House Chart.

Generally, when people construct a House Chart along Agrippa’s ideas, they’ll put the Mothers and Daughters into the House Chart just as Agrippa does, starting in House I and House II respectively and proceeding clockwise from there, but then they’ll put Nieces in the cadent houses clockwise starting in House III, not add together the figures of that cadent house’s triplicity mates together to come up with a new figure.  What they end up with is this method:

Mothers Daughters Nieces
First House I House II House III
Second House X House XI House XII
Third House VII House VIII House IX
Fourth House IV House V House VI

It bears remembering that Agrippa just doesn’t use the Nieces at all, although others say he does—notably, Franz Hartmann in his 1889 book The Principles of Astrological Geomancy, where he presents it along with the traditional method but seems to prefer this faux-Agrippa method over the traditional one.  I’m not certain whether Hartmann was the first to attribute this allotment method to Agrippa, but it is the earliest reference I’ve seen yet, and it’s not like there was all that much geomantic material being published between 1700 and 1900.  Stephen Skinner in his Geomancy in Theory and Practice (and in his older Terrestrial Astrology) simply calls this the “esoteric” method, but what’s clear is that when people say they’re using the Agrippa-style method of house allotment, they’re not actually using what Agrippa proposes to do, which is to eschew the Nieces in favor of cardinal and fixed triplicity sums of figures for the cadent houses.  For this reason, I’m going to start calling this the “faux-Agrippa” method from here on out, though Skinner’s “esoteric” method sounds pleasant enough.  Skinner calls it this because:

It has often been said that the correct method of allocation is the real secret of geomancy which has never been published. Even Aleister Crowley, who was in the habit of ‘telling everything like it is’, admitted that a major key had been left out of his explanation of the technical side of astro-geomancy. That key was the House allocation system. Amongst the systems outlined in this book is the major key which was omitted.

The “esoteric” allotment method had probably “never been published” (except in Hartmann and potentially a few other contemporaneous or slightly earlier geomancers whose works I don’t have access to, should any exist) because it was never actually a thing until someone said it was, as well as the fact that there was no allocation because the figures were already in their own houses according to their own logic and thus didn’t need any such allocation, but here we are anyway.  I should also note that Aaron Leitch discusses this method in a 2006 article on geomancy on his website.  However, Hartmann’s book, although still being published even in our modern day, probably doesn’t have as much reach as Leitch’s website does nowadays, so between Leitch’s webpage and the books of both Hartmann and Skinner, it’s likely that this is how the faux-Agrippa method became so (relatively) widespread in modern times.

The underlying rationale of the faux-Agrippa method is basically the same as that of Agrippa’s true method.  Basically, the Mothers get assigned to the angular houses because, being the first, they must therefore also be the strongest figures of the whole chart; the Daughters, being generated from the Mothers, have some strength but are less strong than the Mothers, and so get assigned to the succedent houses as being not the strongest but also not the weakest houses; the Nieces (if present at all), being made last, have the least strength, and so go to the cadent houses as the weakest of the houses.  I have several issues with this rationale:

  • I’ve never seen it mentioned in any geomantic text of a notion of strength or power between the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces.  To be sure, there is a notion of age and seniority given the names for these groups of figures, but I’ve never seen it expressed in this way before in any other geomantic text outside those influenced by Agrippa.  It even runs counter to some African practices of geomancy, where the Nieces are looked at as restraining influences on their parent Mothers or Daughters, suggesting an equality of power even if not in rank.
  • The first two Nieces are formed from the addition of pairs of the Mothers, and the second two from the addition of pairs of Daughters.  If the Daughters are formed from the points of the Mothers, and if the Daughters are weaker than the Mothers because they proceed from them, then it would follow that the first two Nieces should have a power on par with that of the Daughters as a whole, while the second two Nieces are weaker than either the first two Nieces or the four Daughters.  But we don’t see that borne out here, either.  In Agrippa’s true system, where the Nieces are formed from addition of one Mother and one Daughter each, I suppose one could argue that such a figure could be conceived as being weaker than either, but it could also be argued to being the figure of average strength between the two, weaker in power than the Mother involved yet stronger in power than the Daughter involved—and this view is more true to the geomantic notion of addition, especially as seen in the Court with the Judge and Witnesses.
  • The points of the Daughters are the exact same points of the Mothers, just transposed 90° to be read from right to left instead of from top to bottom.  I would argue that, although we procedurally draw out the Daughters after the Mothers, when we make the four Mother figures from scratch, we’ve already made the Daughters at the same time by reading the points in a non-consecutive order.  In that light, the Daughters are neither weaker nor younger than the Mothers.
  • Most importantly (and disastrously), the new houses of the figures gives them different meanings and contexts than what their own positions have always had in the rest of extant geomantic practice (i.e. according to the traditional allotment).  This is a massive departure from normative practice that I simply do not trust because the positions of the figures in the Shield Chart are already the houses of the House Chart; to shuffle them around is like looking at a horoscope, seeing a planet in a house you don’t like, and randomizing the houses for a more intellectually pleasing but empirically unfounded arrangement.  Either we’re giving each figure a dual context of interpretation which complicates things, or we’re replacing the natural context of interpretation of figures with one with a non-geomantic system which stands to break things.
  • We also see this echoed in the technique of company, which is intimately connected to the geomantic triads. Company is described as only being formed between odd-even houses of the House Chart, never even-odd ones (so Houses I and II or Houses III and IV, etc., but never Houses II and III). Although this is not explained, this makes the most sense when you consider that these pairs of houses are also the pairs of figures in the Shield Chart that add up together to form a third figure, as in the triads (e.g. First Mother and Second Mother, Third Mother and Fourth Mother, etc.).  To use an angular-based allotment method like what Agrippa or faux-Agrippa would do would break the structural logic undergirding company entirely.

But we’re not done yet!  There’s yet another method of allotting figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart, which is also definitely a modern innovation: that of the Golden Dawn and, from it, of Thelema, both of which use Agrippa’s underlying rationale but expressed in a different way.  In the Golden Dawn’s Zelator 1°=10° grade, which contain instructions in the art of geomancy, as well as in the Thelemic Liber Gaias sub figurâ XCVI, the student is instructed to allot the figures of the House Chart to the Shield Chart in this manner:

Mothers Daughters Nieces
First House X House XI House XII
Second House I House II House III
Third House IV House V House VI
Fourth House VII House VIII House IX

What’s going on here is that, like Agrippa, the Golden Dawn method of assigning the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart gives the Mothers to the angular houses and the Daughters to the succedent houses, but unlike Agrippa, they give the Nieces to the cadent houses.  Moreover, the Golden Dawn doesn’t start allocating the figures with Houses I and II and proceeding clockwise around the chart like Agrippa does, but they start with Houses X, XI, and XII and proceed counterclockwise around the chart.  Although I can’t find an explanation of why the Golden Dawn does what it does against what Agrippa does or what long-standing geomantic tradition does, there are a few things that occur to me here:

  • They allot the figures to the houses in a counterclockwise direction in the flow of the houses themselves, which are counted counterclockwise from House I.  This is also, when considered from modern European languages, a form of “reading from right to left”, which is much like how the figures are generated in the Shield Chart.
  • They start allotting the figures in House X, the angular house associated with Capricorn, the cardinal sign of Earth.  This would then be the “earthiest” of the angular houses according to its zodiacal association (the logic of which has a number of faults), which would then be seen as most fitting for geomancy, “seeing by earth” and thus an elementally Earth-based form of divination—which is why geomancy is taught in the Zelator 1°=10° grade, itself associated with the element (and planet) Earth on their Hermetic Tree of Life.

I guess they have a logic, even if it’s not one I’d go with.  For one, assigning a natural zodiac sign to the houses has always been a debatable thing, and it’s only in modern times (especially with the rise of the 12-letter alphabet linking signs with houses and planets, which is not exactly a good thing) that we see it so accepted as a default fact.  For two, if any house is particularly earthy, I’d say it’s House IV, not House X, because House IV literally represents earth and land, while House X represents the sky itself.  I see the logic of saying House X is earthy because of Capricorn, but that logic is so shaky compared to the meaning of the houses themselves.  That being said, it is true that the Golden Dawn geomantic process does heavily involve the invocation of the planetary spirits to perform divination, and as celestial entities, perhaps House X might not be a bad choice for that, being closest to House IX.  I guess it’s something, I suppose.

So, with that, we have four house allotment methods: the traditional method, the true Agrippa method, the faux-Agrippa method, and the Golden Dawn method.  Let’s compare them all alongside each other:

Traditional True Agrippa Faux-Agrippa Golden Dawn
First Mother House I House I House I House X
Second Mother House II House X House X House I
Third Mother House III House VII House VII House IV
Fourth Mother House IV House IV House IV House VII
First Daughter House V House II House II House XI
Second Daughter House VI House XI House XI House II
Third Daughter House VII House VIII House VIII House V
Fourth Daughter House VIII House II House II House VIII
First Niece House IX N/A House III House XII
Second Niece House X N/A House XII House III
Third Niece House XI N/A House IX House VI
Fourth Niece House XII N/A House VI House IX
Houses VII + XI N/A House III N/A N/A
Houses II + X N/A House VI N/A N/A
Houses I + V N/A House IX N/A N/A
Houses IV + VIII N/A House XII N/A N/A

Now, with all that done, let’s make a bit of a survey.  Between all the geomancers who have published works under their name or who have published works associated with their name whose books I have access to, who uses what methods? For this, I’m looking at my own library of geomantic works both modern and old, as well as whatever traditional and Renaissance materials I can find on Google Books and Archive.org and other websites, and giving (sometimes approximate) dates of publication or evidence where possible for each author:

  • Traditional
    • Les Cross (2012)
    • Richard Webster (2011)
    • John Michael Greer (c. 2000-2010)
    • Jeanne-Odile Nory de Trebourg (1995)
    • Joël Jacques (1991)
    • Jean-Paul Ronecker (1991)
    • Angele-Marie Cacciaguerra (1989)
    • Henry Drummond Wolff (1908)
    • Abu Hali ben Omar (1704)
    • John Case (1697)
    • Johann Andreas Schmidt (1695)
    • Robert Fludd (1687)
    • John Heydon (1663)
    • Le Sieur de Peruchio (1657)
    • Henri de Pisis (1638)
    • Jean de la Taille de Bondaroy (1574)
    • Christopher Cattan (1558)
    • Pietro d’Abano (c. 1550)
    • Al-Fakini (1535)
  • No distinct House Chart drawn out as such, but interpretations follow the traditional allotment method:
    • Mathilde Sanoda (1993)
    • Gisèle and Gilbert Jausas (1993)
    • Philippe Dubois (1987)
    • Hadji Khamballah (1985)
    • Alain le Kern (1978)
    • Bartholomeo di Roca (Cocles) (1549)
    • Lectura Geomantiae (c. 1400s)
    • Martin of Spain (c. 1310)
  • Agrippa
    • Agrippa (c. 1600)
  • Faux-Agrippa
    • Aaron Leitch? (2006)
    • Priscilla Schwei and Ralph Pestka (1990)
    • Franz Hartmann (1889)
  • Golden Dawn
    • Nick Farrell (2009)
    • Aaron Leitch (2006)
    • Nigel Pennick (1995)
    • Israel Regardie (c. 1937), Chic and Tabitha Cicero (1998), and other Golden Dawn folk
    • Aleister Crowley (c. 1909) and other Thelema folk

Now, I’m not saying that this is an exhaustive survey of every geomantic work written from 1300 onward—I’d love to be so thorough, but I only have access to what I have access to—but I think I’ve made my point clear: it’s not until the late 19th century do we start seeing an angular-based allotment method gaining traction popularly, whether the faux-Agrippa or the Golden Dawn/Thelema methods, and all that’s rather late in the game of geomancy, indeed.  Further outside of Agrippa-influenced or Golden Dawn-influenced modern Western (especially Anglophone) contexts, basically every other geomancer across either all or the vast supermajority of the extant geomantic literature published or written in Europe and everywhere else in the world has always and ever used the traditional straightforward method, from the earliest texts right up into the modern day.  And even then, the traction such angular-based allotment methods do gain is still overwhelmed and overshadowed by the sheer popularity and commonality (and, I argue, the correctness) of geomancers even in our modern era.  However, because of the popularity of the Golden Dawn and Thelema as vehicles for promulgating their (withered and misunderstood) forms of geomancy along with a (perhaps undue) focus on Agrippa’s work as being representative of then-contemporary geomantic practice (which it isn’t), this trend of using angular-based allotment methods persists.

In that 2015 post I referenced at the start of this one, I made the claim that “the Golden Dawn, esoteric, and other ways of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart are suboptimal for use in geomancy”, which I still absolutely claim, but I refrained from calling them wrong.  At this point, I’m no longer going to hedge: the angular-based allotment methods (Agrippa, faux-Agrippa, and Golden Dawn) are not mere variations but outright deviations and lapses from normative and standard geomantic practice that has been practiced the world over for close to a millennia.  I understand that some geomancers do use these methods, and their results work; good for them!  After all, magic works best in practice, not always so in theory.  But let’s be clear that what they’re doing is definitely not common practice (nor should it be!) whether as a deliberate choice or out of ignorance.  I’ve seen, both firsthand myself from my own experiments and according to the reports of others who have used angular-based allotment methods before switching to the traditional method, that the angular-based methods just don’t work as well, as clearly, or as cleanly as the traditional method.  I’m not saying you can’t get an answer out of a House Chart that uses an angular-based method, but it’s like trying to travel with a map that’s upside-down, printed backwards, and torn up into chunks; why make this more difficult than it needs to be?  You still can end up where you want to go, but the process is going to be much more difficult and is much more error-prone than otherwise.  This is likely a reason (and let’s be honest, one of many reasons) why so many students of the Golden Dawn get so frustrated with geomancy and why they so often leave it for other forms of divination.

We know from the actual textual evidence that either all or the vast majority of non-European texts as well as the earliest European geomantic texts never historically considered a separate “House Chart” in geomancy; for them, the geomancy chart was just the geomancy chart, full stop.  The distinction between Shield Chart and House Chart only began to arise in Renaissance European texts as a way to make a geomantic chart more astrological-looking for the sake of convenience, whether for applying certain astrologically-influenced techniques easier at a glance or for the sake of being easy on the eyes for astrologers learning geomancy.  But even then, drawing out the House Chart in addition to or instead of the Shield Chart never actually sought to change the fundamental meanings of the positions of the figures in the Shield Chart: the First Mother was always talking about the querent, the Second Mother about their wealth, the Fourth Mother their home and inheritance, the First Daughter their children, and so forth.  This understanding of the positions of the figures in the Shield Chart, even with the possibility of it being introduced shortly after the original development of geomancy, has been with us for so long that it’s basically fundamental to the practice of geomancy.  It’s only after European texts start drawing out the House Chart that some people—basically just Agrippa, at least until the past 150 years—sought to astrologize geomancy more and more to the point of breaking that identity of the positions of the figures from the Shield Chart and reorganizing those meanings.

In the course of geomancy’s withering over the centuries, with much of the nuance lost from the Court of the Shield Chart and more emphasis placed on the twelve houses of the House Chart, later geomancers who were so far removed from the height of the art (basically the Golden Dawn) ended up making this subjugating of geomancy to (bad) astrology worse by introducing further deviations of their own.  After all, if you forget that the importance of the sixteenth figure of the Sentence, the sum of the Judge and the First Mother, which talks about the effect of the situation as a whole (the Judge) directly on the querent themselves (the First Mother), then what’s to stop you from thinking about the First Mother as anything but the querent?  And if you forget that the Right Witness naturally talks about the querent and their whole side of the situation, and the Left Witness about the quesited and whatever’s facing the querent, then what’s to stop you from thinking of the four Mothers of discussing other things besides the first four houses of the House Chart, a.k.a. the so-called “personal/individual houses”, and the four Daughters as the second four houses, a.k.a. the “interpersonal/relational houses”?  Using the angular-based methods of house allotment breaks all this, and leads to unclear and broken answers arrived at with bad and broken geomancy.  It doesn’t mean you can’t get an answer out of such a chart, but just because a broken clock is right twice a day doesn’t mean the clock is working, either.

As I’ve said before and as I constantly tell to students of geomancy, the House Chart is (and must be!) the same chart as the Shield Chart, with the same figures containing the same meaning and the same message.  This sometimes-common notion of the Shield Chart “contradicting” or “confusing” the House Chart is a modern one, and no pre-modern geomancer ever seemed to really have that problem, because for them, the Shield Chart was inherently the House Chart and vice versa.  The positions of the figures in the Shield Chart have, and have always had, the meanings of the houses as and where they are, and breaking that association of field with their associated house meanings they’ve had for a thousand years to suit an external astrological model of assigning undue importance to some figures over others by apparently misunderstanding what they are is bad geomantic practice.  While I previously considered the different house allotment methods to be like different house systems used in astrology (e.g. Placidus, Porphyry, Regiomontanus, whole sign, etc.), the more I think about it, the more I think that comparison doesn’t hold; as opposed to reasonable ways to reckon where the boundaries of houses fall in an astrological horoscope, what we see here with these deviant (not just variant) house allotment systems is far worse and more damaging to the art of geomancy than quibbling over trigonometrical best practices, and more like trying to mistakenly use a thirteen-sign sidereal zodiac in Hellenistic astrology, because the IAU obviously knows what they’re talking about when it comes to astrology.

Before I’m decried as trying to stifle the innovation and expansion of geomancy into better and more expansive forms, let me be clear: there are absolutely ways to innovate, invent, expand, and develop this art without breaking the fundamental logic and practices that have been around since the very beginnings of the art.  Yet, the use of these deviant house allotment systems definitely breaks that logic and goes against these fundamental practices and associations we’ve had since the start.  To that end, I do not and cannot recommend the use of other house allotment methods besides the traditional, because the traditional method is literally already baked into the Shield Chart: the Houses already are the Fields and vice versa, and the House Chart already is the Shield Chart and vice versa.  The traditional house allotment method isn’t just the best one to use out of several—it’s really the only logical and sensible one to use.

Happy 800th post!  We made it!  Now go forth, and do better and more well-informed geomancy.

Labeling Myself as a Follower of the Way of Hermēs Trismegistus

Another day, another rant about the Kybalion.  No rest for the weary nor comfort for the correct, I suppose.  Readers here and my good followers and friends on Twitter and Facebook will know that I have no love for the Kybalion for any number of reasons, the biggest of which is that it claims to be a Hermetic text when it just, flatly, isn’t.  All it has going for it is that it claims itself to be and describes itself to be Hermetic, despite that the “real” text that what we have as the Kybalion claims to be an exegesis of doesn’t exist, that none of the quotes attributed to Hermēs Trismegistus in that text appear in any of the literature of philosophical or technical Hermetica, and that none of the cosmology, framework, or spiritual “infrastructure” that the Kybalion describes lines up with that which the Hermetic canon does.  The more one reads the Hermetic canon of texts and the more one reads the Kybalion, the more obvious and more numerous the differences become.  (Eventually, I have in mind to write a blog post series, “A Hermetic Refutation of the Kybalion”, but that’s something that even I’m dreading to write, honestly; that’ll be no small work, that I already know.)

And yet people are still surprised to hear any of this, if not outright disbelieving, because all they’ve ever heard is that the Kybalion is a Hermetic text.  It says right there that it is, after all; why would we not believe it?  Whole Hermetic orders of magical lodges and communities praise and promulgate the Kybalion, and generations of magicians and spiritual seekers uphold it and keep it fondly next to their hearts.  I’ve been called a sham and a liar and a poser for saying that the Kybalion isn’t Hermetic—because, I reiterate, it’s not—and that I should be ashamed of myself for misleading both myself and others about such a venerable ancient text (written about 110 years ago, as opposed to the 1700 years that the Corpus Hermeticum was written, give or take a century), and how dare I call myself a Hermeticist when I would oppose such a useful, informative, enlightening text.  It’s so accessible!  It’s so concise!  It’s so inspiring!  It’s such a good text!  (So many people harbor such a rabid love for the text, I wonder if there isn’t some deeper egregore at work here that makes so many place it atop such an esteemed pedestal with almost cult-like fanaticism.)

Like, I really don’t know what else to say besides the same thing over and over again: the Kybalion is not a Hermetic text, nor is it even derived from Hermetic texts.  Nowhere in the Hermetic canon of texts do we find a notions of “seven principles”, “three planes”, “the ALL is mental”, or whatever.  It’s all very clearly New Thought, and all derivative at that.  It’s not ancient, and it’s not Hermetic.  Whenever someone claims that it’s either of those things, that’s a good sign that they don’t know what they’re talking about.  Even if it is good for opening a window—not even a door—to let in a fresh breeze of spiritual awakening in, I can’t seriously consider that enough to give it such praise as it’s given.  I mean, we all go through embarrassing phases—I started off my PGM work with Stephen Flowers’ “Hermetic Magic”, which was good to spark my interest but which I haven’t touched in years because it’s such a dreadful text, to say nothing of my fondness for Scott Cunningham’s “Earth Power” and “Earth, Air, Fire, and Water”, which actually are useful if not awkward to admit it as such—it’s okay to let crappy things die in the past, especially as we find newer and better things to study.  Even if the Kybalion is an easy-to-digest introductory text to thinking in spiritual terms, unless you’re going to continue to go down the path of New Thought or the various other paths of mish-mash derivative New Age messes, there’s so much unlearning to do to actually properly understand Hermetic philosophy and spirituality in its own terms.  At that point, whatever good the Kybalion can bring is negated and made worse by the harm it can do; it’s like how sugar-processed white bread buns with faux-grilled misc-meat-product hamburgers are good for a quick burst of calories on the go when you’re hungry, but holding to that diet over time will give you severe health problems later on.  Even if the actual Hermetic texts are more difficult to read and ponder?  Good!  Like sex, better hard and slow than fast and bad.

Heck, even the word “Kybalion”, which looks Greek, isn’t even a meaningful word; it’s either meant to dimly recall notions of kabbalah (which, as a Jewish system of mysticism, also isn’t Hermetic), or perhaps the goddess Cybele (what connections that might have with Hermeticism is beyond me).  The only two Greek words that are extant that bear similarity to “Kybalion” are κυβαλικος (like a rascal, knave, or rogue) and κιβδηλος (fraud, counterfeit)—both of which are fitting, I suppose, for this text.

Let me clarify something, I suppose.  When I refer to “the Hermetic canon”, I refer primarily to the source texts of Hermeticism attributed to Hermēs Trismegistus written in the classical period (between 100 and 700 CE) that all Hermetic philosophy, theology, cosmology, and practices descend from.  These texts are largely broken down into two categories, the philosophical Hermetica and the technical Hermetica.  The technical Hermetica consist of a truly wide variety of texts, ranging from astrology and (proto-)alchemy to medicine and scribecraft and everything in-between; the Greek, Demotic, and Coptic Magical Papyri are good examples of this, though not all of those would necessarily qualify as “technical Hermetica”.  On the other hand, the philosophical Hermetica consists of, well, more philosophical, spiritual, and devotional texts, the most famous of which is the Corpus Hermeticum, the first book of which is sometimes taken to be the title of the whole thing: “The Divine Pymander” (or whatever variant spelling of Poimandrēs one wants to take).  When people ask about resources for the philosophical Hermetica in modern English, I typically share the same list of resources:

There are, to be sure, other translations of these texts, especially of the Corpus Hermeticum and Asclepius, but I find Copenhaver’s and Salaman’s to be the best currently out there.  Salaman’s translation is a little easier and smoother to read, though he makes more editorial and translator’s decisions for the sake of an easy read; Copenhaver is more critical and exact, which is better for study and comparison.  Salaman’s “Way of Hermes” is excellent for the translation of the Definitions alone, and Litwa’s text (though unfortunately rather pricey) is a fantastic resource on so much of the “miscellaneous philosophical Hermetica” that covers at least as much ground as the Corpus Hermeticum and Asclepius do themselves—to say nothing about the Korē Kosmou, which itself is part of the Stobaean Fragments.  I’m sure there will be future translations coming out, too, especially one rumored by Christian Bull whose works on Hermetic philosophy are priceless to us in the modern day—to say nothing about the extreme hope we have for other Hermetic texts to be discovered that we’ve otherwise lost over the passage of time—but for now, these are what I stick with.  These collectively form my starting point for Hermetic philosophy and, more generally, the “way of Hermēs”, which is perhaps a better way to understand the material given in the philosophical Hermetica.  But I claim that these are the starting point, or should be the starting point, for anyone and anything that claims to be Hermetic—else, if what you’re doing or writing about has no connection to nor root from Hermēs Trismegistus, what sense does it make to call it Hermetic?

It’s true that I am limiting myself in my own personal selection of “the Hermetic canon”, with my own cutoff point being the Emerald Tablet (which, I should note, only first appears in Arabic between the 500s and 700s CE); it’s not like people just forgot about Hermēs Trismegistus after the fall of the Roman Empire.  Far from it!  Although the tradition of the philosophical Hermetica may have fallen by the wayside, the tradition of technical Hermetica lived on strong, especially in the fields of astrology and alchemy (though theurgy and other spiritual works, at that point, were either taken over by other religious systems or just outright quashed as a form of heresy and paganism).  However, that’s not where my focus lies: between my personal focus on the philosophical and contemplative side of things, as well as the fact that after the Emerald Tablet so much of Hermetic literature gets mixed up with other religious and spiritual traditions, it gets harder and harder to make out a firm outline of Hermetic content like we could in earlier texts.  While they’re still valuable as part of the Hermetic tradition, we do start to see branching-off into various kinds of “Hermeticisms”, leading to such wide-ranging differences in the term such as the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” or Franz Bardon’s famous “Introduction to Hermetics”.  Easier and clearer for me, at least, to consider the original texts that they all come from before this branching-off as the root that we can all at least agree on are Hermetic.  And if something outright builds up a radically different framework and cosmology and philosophy that either doesn’t talk about what those texts does, contradicts it constantly, or talks about things that the original texts didn’t care to discuss or outright said was a distraction, can that really be called Hermetic?  No—which is why I claim that the Kybalion isn’t a Hermetic text.

But you know what?  It is true that there are a variety of Hermeticisms around nowadays, and that Hermēs (whether as Maiados or as Trismegistos) is a pretty promiscuous character.  It’s not at all beyond the pale to consider Hermeticism to have “sects”, much as Christianity or Islam, and while all these Hermetic sects may trace or claim some origin with Hermēs Trismegistus as the prophet-sage-teacher-god-hero-initiator that resulted from Hellenicizing the Egyptian Thoth and Egyptianizing the Greek Hermēs, let’s be honest: so many of these sects and groups that claim the label of “Hermetic” can often be so far away that they’re anything but.  As one of my Twitter friends noted, it’s like how many Mormons call themselves Christian online without every having read the actual Bible and only swearing by the Book of Mormon: sure, I guess it’s derived from Christianity and does claim Jesus Christ as the (or a) central figure, but it’s so far removed from the rest of Christianity that it may as well just be its own thing.  I mean, it’s not uncommon that I have to explain that, no, I have no connection to the Golden Dawn and that my magic is not derived from or influenced by them, yet the Golden Dawn is the first thing that pops into their mind when they hear the word “Hermetic”.  It’s good marketing, I suppose—which is the most likely reason why the Kybalion tried to claim that title for itself so as to sell more copies and spread the word of New Thought further—but considering the depth and breadth of Hermeticism outside the Golden Dawn, to simply think of Hermeticism as Renaissance-derived Rosicrucian blends of Solomonic magic and (very distantly-derived) Jewish mysticism with Egyptian window-dressing in a Freemasonry lodge structure is…pretty far off the mark, if you ask me.

So, okay.  If people want to claim that I’m not Hermetic because I don’t like and discourage people from reading the Kybalion?  Alright, sure.  Though I’d rather they stop using the term Hermetic when they’re not discussing anything of the sort, sure, I’ll drop the label first.  From now on, I won’t call myself a Hermeticist except in the extremely broadest sense of meaning “something to do with Hermēs Trismegistus” (whether legitimately or spuriously, because words do have meaning after all), and for anything more specific, I’m going to adopt the label of “Hermetist” for myself, and “Hermetism” for what it is I study.

Hermetist, Hermetism?  These are terms I find in academic literature discussing the classical Hermetic texts over and over, and although some do use “Hermetic” and “Hermeticism”, there’s a subtle distinction being made here.  The bulk of modern academia is, as ever, focused on distancing itself from the occult, spiritual, magical, and anything considered “woo”, for better or for worse (though there are increasingly more and more researchers and writers and professors who don’t care about that, especially once they get tenure).  Because the word “Hermetic” is fraught with magical tension, they often use the term “Hermeticism” to refer to post-classical alchemical and magical texts and orders, and “Hermetism” to refer to the actual texts, traditions, and groups that we know had weight as being written and taught by Hermēs Trismegistus.  In that sense, the Corpus Hermeticum is (or ought to be) a text of both the Hermetist and Hermeticist, while the unrelated texts of the e.g. Ordo Aurum Solis would be more for the Hermeticist.  All of this would be considered Hermetic (as that is the proper adjective to use for things pertaining to Hermēs Trismegistus, as opposed to “Hermaic”, which is more for the god Hermēs himself apart and away from the other trappings), but as far as the path, framework, and the rest is concerned, there’s quite a gulf that separates Hermetism from Hermeticism more broadly, indeed.

I know there are some people who get upset at someone deciding to label themselves, because waaah limits or waaah you’re cutting yourself off from the truth or waaah why can’t we all get along or something.  But you know what?  Labels are words, and anyone who has any knowledge of Egyptian models of magic is that words are power, whether written or spoken, because words have meaning.  If people want to insist that something that claims to be Hermetic isn’t Hermetic even after there being abundant and well-agreed-upon evidence, like the Kybalion, or want to use the word “Hermetic” to describe something that has evolved and shifted so far away from its Hermetic roots that there’s no clear connection or silhouette between the two anymore?  Okay, fine.  Then what those people are doing isn’t what I’m doing, and there are clearly more of them than me out there, and a distinction in terminology is called for with good reason and impetus.  I’m aware that the Hermeticism/Hermetism distinction is not well-understood yet, hence this post being written: perhaps those who see such a distinction and agree with it can take the word on as well, and get on with our practice and lives without being dragged down by people who don’t care much for such trifling things such as coherence, cohesion, or correctness in the choice of words we use to describe things or in the worldviews and spiritual frameworks we apply ourselves in.  No shame nor shade to those who prefer a more Hermeticist than Hermetist path, as I know a good deal of people who do good work in modern Hermeticist traditions, but they aren’t doing what I’m doing, and perhaps that needs to be made more clear.

So, yeah.  As a follower on the Way of Hermēs Trismegistus, taking the classical philosophical Hermetica as the backbone of my cosmology and the classical technical Hermetica as the (ever-widening, ever-deepening) foundation of my magical practices?  I’m a Hermetist in the practice and ideology of Hermetism, and those are the terms I’m going to use from here on out.  This isn’t to say that I’m disavowing anything that came after the classical period or that more modern Hermeticist stuff is worthless or pointless—the Trithemian rite of conjuration is still excellent, to be sure, and I have a number of other practices that have origins in a number of other time periods—but as far as I consider myself and the core of my practices, I’m a Hermetist.

May as well save some of my own breath, even with that one syllable removed, given how much others waste theirs.

EDIT: Another friend of mine on Twitter reports that there was no term “Hermetic” or “Hermeticist” or even “Hermetist” used as such back in classical times as a distinct label for people who also followed the Way of Hermēs Trismegistus, but “Trismegistici” or “Τρισμεγιστικοι”, as opposed to Ερμαιοι or Ερμετικοι.  This would make the modern term for them “Trismegistist” and the adjective form “Trismegistic”, although “Trismegist” sounds a bit nicer, I have to admit.  It’s so pomous and immodest, but yanno what?  I do kinda like it, even if it a bit more obscure and opaque than “Hermetist” would be.  So there’s another option for terminology: Trismegistism, Trismegistic, Trismegist(-ist).  Or, as she later suggested, “Altrismegest” in a not-so-subtle nod to the Almagest, which I have to admit makes me melt a little inside.