On Sounds and Silences

In preparation for some more mathetic exploration, I took another look at the Tetractys and how I want to approach the exploration of paths.  To refresh your memory, dear reader, this is my version of the Tetractys, a kind of Pythagorean “Tree of Life”, with Greek letters forming the 24 οδοι between the ten σφαιραι that collectively compromise the ten Hermetic realms.

Any particular path will connect two particular spheres.  As mentioned an age ago, I separated out the 24 paths into two sets of twelve paths: the Gnosis Schema and the Agnosis Schema.  The Gnosis Schema connects all ten spheres in a cyclical manner, starting with the Sphere of Mercury and returning back to it multiple times.  We start at Mercury, continue down to Jupiter, then to Mars, then to the Sun, then back to Mercury, then to the Moon, and so forth.  This was the foundation for the assignment of letters to these paths, and each path in this order has the letter that corresponds to each of the twelve Zodiac signs.

Having the letters for the paths is good, since given we have several techniques to meditate on the power of individual letters.  However, even if we have means to access the powers of the paths, what might I do to access the powers of the spheres themselves in a similar fashion?  The paths lead to the spheres, but how do I embrace the spheres?  My instinct would be to use meditation on the seven vowels that correspond to the seven planets, but that only works for the lower seven of the spheres that correspond to the seven planets.

In the subfield of linguistics known as phonology, there are different ways to categorize a vowel.  A vowel can be produced in the front, middle, or back of the mouth; it can be produced with the tongue elevated or lowered; it can be produced with the lips rounded or unrounded.  A specific diagram is often used, known as the vowel trapezium, that illustrates the different vowels used for a given language, such as the one below for standard Californian English.  The more to the left a vowel is, the closer the tongue is towards the front; the more to the right, the closer the tongue is towards the back; the higher, the more closed the mouth is; the lower, the more open the mouth is.

Using Ancient Greek phonology, which is what I prefer for ritual, the resulting scheme that demonstrates (roughly, per Wikipedia) what the vowel qualities are for the seven Greek vowels:

Front Back
unrounded rounded
Close Ι Υ
Close-mid Ο
Middle Ε
Open-mid Η Ω
Open Α

Take a look at how these vowels are associated with the planets on the Tetractys.  We’ve previously grouped the ten spheres into three groups: the Hot Initiatory Cycle (Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, Sun), the Cold Initiatory Cycle (Mercury, Moon, Saturn, Venus), and the Cosmic Initiatory Cycle (Mercury, Stars, Monad, Earth).  If we look at the Hot and Cold cycles, we can separate the vowels like this:

• Hot: Ε, Υ, Ο, Ι
• Cold: Ε, Α, Ω, Η

The Hot vowels are all middle-to-closed vowels (formed by the tongue in the middle of the mouth raised upward to the roof), while the Cold vowels are all middle-to-open (formed by the tongue in the middle of the mouth lowered down to the floor).  The vowel Ε, representing Mercury in the middle of the Tetractys, is fittingly part of both cycles as well as the only true middle or neutral vowel formed in the mouth.  Additionally, the most extreme closed vowel is Ι, representing the Sun which “descends” into Jupiter and Mars according to the Tetractys, and the most extreme open vowel is Α, representing the Moon which “descends” into Saturn and Venus.  Ε, the vowel of Mercury, “descends” into Venus and Jupiter, the vowels of which are less extreme and more moderated in the mouth than the vowels of Saturn and Mars.  The sync between the vowel qualities and the placement of the spheres of heaven on the Tetractys forms a neat little match.

This leaves three spheres that have no such sounds for the heavens: the Fixed Stars, the Earth, and the Monad.  These are the spheres that comprise the Cosmic cycle, which stars with Mercury and thus the vowel Ε, but there are no vowels for these last three spheres.  I’m still wrapping my head around this, and this is all as yet purely theoretical, but it would make sense that these spheres have no sound.  These are spheres of silence, but they’re different spheres, and thus should have different resonances, different “sounds” of silence.  Silence is a simple word, but like the word “love”, I think that it would be fitting to think of different kinds of silence that the word itself may not clearly delineate.  Bear with me a bit through this.

The sphere of the Earth (leading up to Mercury) is the sphere of terrestrial, pregnant silence.  This is the tension in the air you feel before a conversation, the feeling of blood pulsing through your veins, the breath entering in and exiting from the lungs, the whisper of wind coursing through the skies, the currents of water under the ocean, the flame combusting on clean fuel.  This is the silence that is an absence of communication but is always surrounded and punctuated by it.  This is the silence you hear everywhere there is life, the silence of potential, the silence of worldly presence without which there cannot be action.  This is the silence that gives way to speech and necessitates it in order to be produced again.  This is the silence of the womb whence we come and the silence of the tomb whither we go.

The sphere of the Stars (leading away from Mercury) is the sphere of heavenly, holy silence.  This is the Hymns of Silence, the infinite chorus sung outside the hearing of those who live, the deafening silence that ascends and descends that backs up all cosmic travel and all magical work, the sound behind any sound.  This is the silence of communion, of ritual, of connection without bodies.  This is the silence of activity, the silence of divine power, the silence of initiation.  This is the silence that precludes the need for sound and overrides any song sung, tale told, or speech spoken.  This is the eternal silence underlying all things that exist, both sounding-board and root of sound for all that becomes, all that is, all that was, and all that might be.

One way to think of the difference between these two kinds of silence is to reflect upon how we recognize something meant when we hear it.  When we hear a word we understand, we have the spoken sound of it, but then we also have the known meaning of it.  We cannot directly hear meaning, but it is borne into us by the sound of the word.  The meaning is always forever in our mind, even if it is not always at the forefront of our minds; conversely, the sound can always be made, but is not the only sound we make nor is it a sound that continues forever.  A meaning cannot be communicated to another without it being spoken aloud, and a word that is not understood does not communicate meaning.  In this case, meaning is like the silence of the Stars: it is always there, but must be known before being understood or used in any way; likewise, word is like the silence of the Earth: it must be made, though it cannot be made forever without something else interrupting it, and it can only be made once per instance.

That just leaves the silence of the Monad.

The sphere of the Monad (between the spheres of the Stars and of the Earth) is…well, this is a little tricky.  This is a silence beyond silence.  This is a place beyond places.  This is a sound beyond sounds.  And it is none of these things.  The Monad is, in a word, God, beyond all duality and all manifestation, beyond all potential and all action.  This silence is ineffable, the holy presence itself that contains all information intelligible and unintelligible, all knowledge knowable and unknowable.  This is the place from which sounds and silences both come.  This is a thing beyond understanding, describing, or talking, so perhaps it is best to keep my own silence on this matter.

On the Hymns of Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

49 Days of Definitions: Part V, Definition 2

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

Today, let’s discuss the nineteenth definition, part V, number 2 of 3:

To Nous nothing is incomprehensible, to speech nothing ineffable: when you keep silent, you understand; when you talk, you (just) talk.  Since Nous conceives speech in silence, only (that) speech (which comes) from silence and Nous (is) salvation.  (But that) speech (which comes) from speech (is) only perdition; for by (his) body man is mortal, but by speech (he is) immortal.

Speech with reason is Logos; speech without reason is voice (V.1).  Among all the creatures with voice, Man is the only one with Nous, which enables him to reason (I.1, IV.1).  Logos, which is “reasonable speech”, is the servant of Nous, allowing for the gap between that which is only intelligible and that which is both sensible and intelligible (or, said another way, that which is sensible and that which is insensible) to be bridged.  Voice is sensible; reason is intelligible only; by combining the two, we get reasonable speech, which allows for the intelligible to become sensible.  Now we start to see how the Logos works with the Nous, and how Man works with both of these in its own manner.

First, we read that “to Nous nothing is incomprehensible”; this follows from V.1, where “Nous sees everything”, and from III.1, where “nothing is uninhabited by God”.  Nous is Mind, and more than that, the Mind of All as well as the All.  After this, we learn that “to speech nothing [is] ineffable”; thus, there is nothing that cannot be intelligible nor reasoned about.  Consider that it is impossible for anything to exist outside of God; all things must be a part of God, and all of God is intelligible.  Add to it, where the Mind is, so too is the Word, so the Word is with the Mind in all places at all times and is a servant to Mind.  The Word, the Logos, allows things to be reasoned and reasonable; thus, where Logos goes, so too does reason.  Whatever can be reasoned can be spoken of; thus, “nothing is ineffable” to Logos, which can reason about literally everything that exists and can possibly exist within God.

However, while nothing is ineffable to the Word itself, this is a far cry from the words we humans use.  “When you keep silent, you understand; when you talk, you just talk” suggests that the real reason within us is not connected to sensibility, since silence is not sensible.  Sensing a lack of talking is not the same thing as sensing silence, since we can sense the absence of something but not something that is truly insensible, as Logos is.  Reason allows us to bridge the gap between the sensible and the insensible, but is not itself sensible.  Consider the beginning of Hermes Trismegistus’ prayer from the Poemander (chapter I, parts 30 through 32):

Accept my reason’s offerings pure, from soul and heart for aye stretched up to Thee, O Thou unutterable, unspeakable, Whose Name naught but the Silence can express.

We know that “to speech nothing [is] ineffable”, though we also know that God is ineffable (I.4); this would appear to be a contradiction, but remember that speech is not the same thing as reasonable speech.  Reasonable speech allows us to learn about the intelligible through sensible means, but does not allow us to bring the intelligible into sensibility, much as “Nous does not become an observer for the eyes, but the eyes for Nous” when it comes to sight (V.1).  True understanding through reasonable speech requires us to abandon voice; I’m reminded of the parable of the raft to explain this point:

A man is trapped on one side of a fast-flowing river. Where he stands, there is great danger and uncertainty – but on the far side of the river, there is safety. But there is no bridge or ferry for crossing. So the man gathers logs, leaves, twigs, and vines and is able to fashion a raft, sturdy enough to carry him to the other shore. By lying on the raft and using his arms to paddle, he crosses the river to safety.

The Buddha then asks the listeners a question: “What would you think if the man, having crossed over the river, then said to himself, ‘Oh, this raft has served me so well, I should strap it on to my back and carry it over land now?'”

The monks replied that it would not be very sensible to cling to the raft in such a way.

The Buddha continues: “What if he lay the raft down gratefully, thinking that this raft has served him well, but is no longer of use and can thus be laid down upon the shore?”

The monks replied that this would be the proper attitude.

The Buddha concluded by saying, “So it is with my teachings, which are like a raft, and are for crossing over with — not for seizing hold of.”

Reasonable speech serves the Nous by bringing us closer to understanding, that which the Nous does, but this is done through speech which serves reasonable speech which serves Nous.  Once we reach understanding, we no longer have need of speech, since we are enjoined with Logos, and once we are brought by Logos to Nous, we no longer have need of even that.  And, much as the innate Buddha-nature within us all according to several kinds of Buddhist thought, Man already has Nous, and nothing really stops us from understanding things as we are immediately.  To talk for any purpose besides reason, and only then when understanding is not yet obtained through it, is talking simply for the sake of talking.  Speech just becomes voice, and Man acts as animals with only voice and no Nous.

“Nous conceived speech in silence”; it’s easier to understand this as “Logos” rather than “speech”, since speech implies sensibility, but Logos was not conceived in the realm of sense.  Logos is intelligible; voice is sensible; reasonable speech is the cross between the two.  Thus, reason abides in silence, not merely a lack of talking, but silence as intelligibility can only be.  Because of this, “only that [Logos] which comes from silence and Nous is salvation”.  This is making the case that simply reasoning about things out loud, using sensibility as the primary and only means of understanding creation, is not the way to go; silent contemplation, reasoning from reasoning itself, is the way to approach the Nous.  This itself is directed by the Nous, who conceived Logos in silence; similarly, as Man is made in the image of Nous, we too must conceive within ourselves Logos in silence and not jabbering about.

Contrasted to this, “speech which comes from speech is only perdition”.  Remember that all living beings with voice are earthly; although the immortal, heavenly beings made of fire and air have soul and body, it’s only the earthy mortal beings that have soul and breath as well as voice (IV.1, IV.2).  And, since earthy living beings are mortal, they must die.  Speech-from-speech is part and parcel of this; this is an aspect of animalian, mortal, worldly speech, which limits one’s understanding of things only to that which is sensible.  Speech-from-speech binds Man to the world just as it does for animals, who can only ever use speech-from-speech.  This is not the way to “salvation”, to Nous, which requires speech-from-silence.

The last part of this definition clarifies something about Man: “by his body man is mortal, but by speech he is immortal”.  Now we start to pick up on the last part from definition I.V, where it said that “man is mortal although he is ever-living”.  Speech-from-speech represents the animalian, inferior part of Man; speech-from-silence represents the spiritual, superior part of Man.  The former is a creation of the world; the latter is the Nous and Logos itself.  Creations of the world die, while the Nous and Logos are eternal and undying.  It’s by reasonable speech, Logos, speech-from-silence that Man can attain salvation and immortality; in other words, we talked ourselves into this mess, and now we have to understand it to get back out.  Merely keeping on talking will only serve to get us further entrenched in the mess of the world, so that’s not the route we need to take.  We need to understand what’s going on, how the higher affects the lower and vice versa, and what reason itself is to get back on our immortal legs; in order to become immortal, we need to be silent.

We have to understand that Man is not merely a creature of this sensible world; Man is something made from both above and below, from God as well as from Heaven.  Man is made in the image of God because Man was given Nous; Man was also made in the image of Heaven being made from the four elements with an animalian body.  We’re a weird syncresis of purely-divine and impurely-divine parts, or directly-divine and indirectly-divine, that gives us both death and immortality at once.  The Poemander describes this weird amalgamation of Mankind and how we came to be (chapter I, parts 14 and 15):

So he who hath the whole authority o’er [all] the mortals in the cosmos and o’er its lives irrational, bent his face downwards through the Harmony, breaking right through its strength, and showed to downward Nature God’s fair Form.  And when she saw that Form of beauty which can never satiate, and him who [now] possessed within himself each single energy of [all seven] Rulers as well as God’s [own] Form, she smiled with love; for ’twas as though she’d seen the image of Man’s fairest form upon her Water, his shadow on her Earth.  He in his turn beholding the form like to himself, existing in her, in her Water, loved it and willed to live in it; and with the will came act, and [so] he vivified the form devoid of reason.  And Nature took the object of her love and wound herself completely round him, and they were intermingled, for they were lovers.

And this is why beyond all creatures on the earth man is twofold; mortal because of body, but because of the essential Man immortal.  Though deathless and possessed of sway o’er all, yet doth he suffer as a mortal doth, subject to Fate.  Thus though above the Harmony, within the Harmony he hath become a slave. Though male-female, as from a Father male-female, and though he’s sleepless from a sleepless [Sire], yet is he overcome [by sleep].

So, where does that leave me with all this writing and talking about the Definitions, or any of my magic and philosophical work?  If talking only serves to keep talking, and if silence is the only means to real understanding, why am I bothering with all of this?  We have to remember that, being made from two parts, we must be able to act as One, just as God is One from the All.  God conceived Logos in silence, which is the realm of God.  Thus, to do the same for us, we must conceive Logos in a lack of talking, which is the correspondence in our realm to that of silence in God’s.  However, God not only conceived the Word but spoke it, creating the rest of the cosmos; Man must, then, not only conceive the Word in a lack of talking but speak it.  Understanding is silence, but salvation is reason, and reason and speech go together as one in Man; just as Man is a combination of the intelligible (Nous) and sensible (body), so too is reasonable speech a combination of the intelligible (Logos) and sensible (voice).  Speech borne from silent understanding allows Logos to enter more into the world; speech borne from speech brings more of the world into itself.

In other words, we have to use speech to sensibly approach Logos, which is the first step to salvation in the Definitions.  This leads us from talking to a lack of talking, which produces silence within ourselves.  Once we approach and obtain Logos, and thus reason and Nous within ourselves, we must use Logos instead of speech to approach the Nous itself.  After all, why else would Hermes Trismegistus have spoken and taught, if not to bring others to Logos and Nous when he himself had already accomplished it?  For that matter, why else would Jesus have taught his disciples, or Buddha Shakyamuni the arhats?  Because they wanted to bring others to truth.  Because they saw the need for more people to obtain understanding.  Because reasonable speech is the servant of Nous.  “For what Nous wants, speech interprets it” (V.1); and if those who understand Nous speak from their (silent) understanding, then it’s not speech-from-speech they’re saying, but speech-from-silence, and it’s only speech-from-silence that shows the way to salvation, to nirvana, to enlightenment, to immortality, to God, to Nous.  We can then derive from this, then, that Nous wants Man to join itself through Logos.

I’ll let Hermes finish this post off, with his own explanation of his own spoken words to his student Asclepius, from the Corpus Hermeticum (chapter IX, part 10):

These things should seem to thee, Asclepius, if thou dost understand them, true; but if thou dost not understand, things not to be believed.  To understand is to believe, to not believe is not to understand.

My word (logos) doth go before [thee] to the truth. But mighty is the mind, and when it hath been led by word up to a certain point, it hath the power to come before [thee] to the truth.  And having thought o’er all these things, and found them consonant with those which have already been translated by the reason, it hath [e’en now] believed, and found its rest in that Fair Faith.

To those, then, who by God[’s good aid] do understand the things that have been said [by us] above, they’re credible; but unto those who understand them not, incredible.

Let so much, then, suffice on thought-and-sense.