On the Hermetic Afterlife: Evidence from the Texts

While I suppose the timing of this post (around the end of Libra and start of Scorpio) is appropriate, I admit that I’ve wanted to write a post about this for some time.  The issue with such a topic, though, is that it requires so much either cleared out ahead of time and laid down as foundations, or otherwise merely assumed, and…well, even then, it can get complicated.  Not too long ago, someone in the Hermetic House of Life Discord server asked a fairly straightforward question in the Hermeticism channel: what happens when we die?  Specifically, the question was, in the context of classical Hermeticism: “when we die, do we become wandering souls until we incarnate again?”  And while such a question seems fairly straightforward, answering it is anything but.

(Also, before we get into it, fun fact: what you’re reading now is the 900th published post on my blog, going all the way back to my first post back in my Blogspot days from February 2010!  I figured a little research-and-writing project like this would be a nice celebration of that milestone, so I hope y’all enjoy.)

So, to start off with, we take for granted in Hermeticism the existence of a soul.  Forming a complete theory or model of what soul is, how it comes to be, how it behaves, and the like is a daunting project (and one that eventually I want to take on), and one that is made all the more difficult by the fact that there’s enough inconsistencies and differences between different Hermetic texts to make getting a single model set up a major challenge.  Still, on the grounds of CH I and many other Hermetic texts, we can take the existence of the soul for granted, and moreover, that the soul is effectively the self, who and what we “really are”.  The body is merely a vessel for the soul, the mind is a divinely-granted faculty of divine awareness that may not be present or activated within every soul, and the spirit is the life-conferring substance that enlivens all things in the cosmos, but the soul is what we truly are, the thing that truly “lives”.  If humanity is an image of God, and if God is understood as Light and Life, then we can consider soul to be the image of the divine Life of God itself.  (I’m really eliding a lot here in this single paragraph, to be fair, but this is a necessary assumption to make as a foundation for the rest of this post.)

Now, much of the classical Hermetic texts all fundamentally describe one thing, or work towards explaining one thing: how to live our lives well so as to solve the problem of suffering in our lives.  Ultimately, the answer is to live mindfully: as noted above, “mind” is the crucial key that allows us to unlock an awareness of divinity, of truth, of God in our lives, and not all people have mind, whether at all or activated/awakened.  However, in having mind (or having mind activated), we are then able to experience states of gnōsis, which are essentially us experiencing God, which helps reveal to us how things “really are”, both within and without the cosmos, and which helps orient us towards living our lives properly.  Even without such experiences of gnōsis, however, it would still be possible for someone to live respectfully, reverently, and devotedly enough in such a way that would allow them to recognize the body for what it is, realize a proper relationship between soul and body, and to better enable themselves to abide with God and to return to God once this current sojourn in the world has come to an end.

The quintessential afterlife vision is given by Poimandrēs to Hermēs in CH I.24—26 (Copenhaver translation):

“You have taught me all things well, o mind, just as I wanted. But tell me again <about> the way up; tell me how it happens.”

To this Poimandrēs said: “First, in releasing the material body you give the body itself over to alteration, and the form that you used to have vanishes. To the demon you give over your temperament, now inactive. The body’s senses rise up and flow back to their particular sources, becoming separate parts and mingling again with the energies. And feeling and longing go on toward irrational nature.

“Thence the human being rushes up through the cosmic framework, at the first zone surrendering the energy of increase and decrease; at the second evil machination, a device now inactive; at the third the illusion of longing, now inactive; at the fourth the ruler’s arrogance, now freed of excess; at the fifth unholy presumption and daring recklessness; at the sixth the evil impulses that come from wealth, now inactive; and at the seventh zone the deceit that lies in ambush.

“And then, stripped of the effects of the cosmic framework, the human enters the region of the ogdoad; he has his own proper power, and along with the blessed he hymns the father. Those present there rejoice together in his presence, and, having become like his companions, he also hears certain powers that exist beyond the ogdoadic region and hymn god with sweet voice. They rise up to the father in order and surrender themselves to the powers, and, having become powers, they enter into god. This is the final good for those who have received knowledge: to be made god.”

What we have here is a process of dissolution and ascension of the soul:

  1. The soul first gives up the body itself, allowing it to decompose.  (This is “death” itself, in the sense of the soul departing the body.)
    1. As the soul gives up the body, so too does the body give up its senses, its drive/feeling (thumos), and its desire/longing (epithumia).  These are all things of the body and not the soul, so the soul isn’t the one technically giving up these things except as a result of giving up the body as a whole, and these could be seen just be a specification of what gets dissolved and decomposed with the body.
  2. The soul then gives over to “the demon” (more on that later) their temperament.
  3. The soul then gives up each of the planetary energies conferred to it by the seven planets back to their respective spheres, rising up through and past each sphere as it does so.
    1. “Increase and decrease” to the Moon
    2. “Evil machination” to Mercury
    3. “Illusion of longing” to Venus
    4. “Arrogance of rulers” to the Sun
    5. “Unholy presumption and daring recklessness” to Mars
    6. “Evil impulses that come from wealth” to Jupiter
    7. “Deceit that lies in ambush” to Saturn
  4. After giving all these things up and rising past the sphere of Saturn, the soul then enters into the eighth (“ogdoadic”) sphere of the fixed stars, beyond the reach of fate
  5. After some indeterminate time, the soul then rises up from the eighth sphere into even higher spheres with even higher powers, eventually entering into and becoming God

The model here is basically that the soul is “weighed down” or “cloaked” by all sorts of trappings that allow it to be incarnate in the first place; in order to free ourselves from incarnation, we have to free ourselves of each of the components that allow for it, returning each trapping to its proper source.  Once we have stripped ourselves of such things, we are then truly free to just be a soul, and are therefore placed beyond the reach of fate (which is identified with the revolutions and alignments of the seven planets in CH I); it’s that eighth sphere of the fixed stars past the sphere of Saturn that we can say is the first “heaven” in the sense of being a resting-place, as it were, a place that is beyond suffering and beyond the bindings of fate.  Attaining access to that eighth sphere might just be the first part of a much larger, hypercosmic journey, but it’s where our journey as encosmic entities comes to a true conclusion.  Upon attaining the eighth sphere, one can be said to be “done” with incarnate reality.

But that’s assuming that a soul actually attains the eighth sphere, and that’s a really big assumption to make.  In fact, there are several big assumptions here that each need to be questioned:

  1. What happens if a soul is not able to give up a trapping of incarnation (its temperament, a planetary energy)?
  2. What happens if a soul is not able to rise up past a particular sphere?
  3. Is the process of ascension instant, or does it take place over an interval of time?

The description of the ascent from CH I.24—26 is not clear as to whether it happens to all souls regardless of how they lived, or whether it’s just the whole complete process described in ideal circumstances for those particular souls able to make the ascent.  After all, shortly after this part, Hermēs begins his mission of going forth into the world to teaching those who can be taught and saving those who can be saved; not everyone chooses to be taught or saved, however, so it raises the question as to what happens to them.  After all, if such a process of ascent were automatic and assured for all people equally, then the focus of Hermēs and Poimandrēs would be more about how to tackle suffering in this life as opposed to what happens afterward, and that doesn’t appear to be the case.  I don’t think what Poimandrēs describes here is applicable to all souls after their death, but is the eventual, ideal case for a soul that is sufficiently refined and prepared for such a journey upward, capable of actually giving up the trappings of incarnation.

Let’s set aside the account of CH I.24—26 for a moment.  Are there any other texts that talk about an afterlife in any notable detail?  Truth be told, there’s really not a lot out there.  While many of the extant Hermetic texts seem to accept reincarnation/metempsychosis as just what happens, there’s very little that describes the actual process of it or what happens between incarnations.  The closest we get to is AH 28 and a few bits from SH 25 and SH 26, and both of these are problematic in their own ways.  Still, it’s worth checking out what they have to say about the subject.

We’re benefitted by AH 28 by it being preserved in slightly different versions, one in Latin (Copenhaver translation):

When soul withdraws from the body, it passes to the jurisdiction of the chief demon who weighs and judges its merit, and if he finds it faithful and upright, he lets it stay in places suitable to it. But if he sees the soul smeared with the stains of wrongdoing and dirtied with vice, he sends it tumbling down from on high to the depths below and consigns it to the storms and whirlpools of air, fire and water in their ceaseless clashing—its endless punishment to be swept back and forth between heaven and earth in the streams of matter. Then the soul’s bane is its own eternity, for an undying sentence oppresses it with eternal torment.

And again in Coptic from NHC VI.8 (Meyer translation):

There is a great demon that the supreme God has appointed as overseer or judge of human souls. God has placed him in the middle of the air between earth and heaven. When a soul comes from a body, it must meet this demon. At once the demon will turn this person around and examine him with regard to the character he developed during his lifetime. If the demon finds that the person accomplished all his deeds in a godly manner, deeds for which he came into the world, the demon will let him…turn him. … But [if the demon observes and becomes angry] at a person [who] spent his life doing [evil] deeds, he grabs him on his way up and throws him back down so that he is suspended between heaven and earth and punished severely. There will be no hope for such a soul, and it will be in great pain.  That soul does not have a place on earth or in heaven, but it has come to be in the open air of the universe, where there is blazing fire, freezing water, streams of fire, and massive turbulence. The bodies are tormented in various ways. Sometimes they are cast into raging water; at other times they are thrown down into fire in order that the fire may destroy them. I am not saying that this is the death of the soul, for the soul has been delivered from evil. Nonetheless, it is a death sentence.

Admittedly, this is a lot, and in context, it takes place when talking about the denigration of the world and what happens when people die.  Hermēs is fairly blunt about death itself in the immediately-preceding AH 27 (Copenhaver’s Latin translation below, basically the same as in Meyer’s Coptic translation):

We must talk now about the immortal and the mortal, for anticipation and fear of death torture the many who do not know the true account of it. Death results from the disintegration of a body worn out with work, after the time has passed when the body’s members fit into a single mechanism with vital functions. The body dies, in fact, when it can no longer support a person’s vital processes. This is death, then: the body’s disintegration and the extinction of bodily consciousness. Worrying about it is pointless. But there is another problem worth worrying about, though people disregard it out of ignorance or disbelief.

Hermēs is clear here: what matters isn’t so much the physical death of the body, but what happens to the soul after it leaves from the body.  Unlike most other Hermetic texts, the doctrine of AH 28 doesn’t clearly seem to support a notion of reincarnation, but rather one of post-life judgment, and the focus here is really on what happens to particular souls that have been judged as being so terrible as to be subject to eternal punishment.  But note where they go: they’re sent to this intermediate zone between Earth and Heaven (in other words, in a region of the sublunar atmosphere) where the air is turbulent.  Bear that specific bit in mind in a bit.

Let’s skip ahead to SH 25 and SH 26, which are the formal designations for the later sections of the Korē Kosmou, respectively.  This text is…questionably Hermetic at best, since it presents a dialogue not of Hermēs to his student(s) but from Isis to Hōros (even if the ultimate teaching passed on was originating from Hermēs through Kamēphis the forebear of Isis), and presents a radically different worldview, theology, and cosmology from the rest of the extant classical Hermetica.  In many ways, it presents something closer to a Hellenized Egyptian myth, almost like a folktale written for philosophers as it were, and it has a lot of information in general.  While SH 23 talks about the creation of the world and of the relationship between God and humanity (which is rather different from anything in the CH, AH, or even most of the rest of the SH) and SH 24 talks about royal souls specifically, SH 25 and SH 26 talk about souls in general.  I won’t quote excerpts, but I can point out a few of the key doctrines that can inform our discussion here:

  • SH 25.1: souls after death do not simply wander aimlessly nor combine with each other, but proceed to a particular realm appropriate to it
  • SH 25.9—13:
    • Souls, when not incarnate in bodies, dwell in the atmosphere between the Earth and the Moon
    • The sublunar atmosphere is split into four divisions with some number of strata:
      • The first (lowest) division: 4 strata
      • The second division: 8 strata
      • The third division: 16 strata
      • The fourth (highest) division: 32 strata
    • Different strata have different qualities of air based on how high and rarefied they are
    • The higher the stratum, the more rarefied the air, the more noble/royal/dignified the soul
    • There are thus 60 different grades of soul
  • SH 26.2:
    • Souls are sent down to become incarnate according to their purpose, and return to a region in the atmosphere appropriate to it
    • Souls either return to the stratum it came from, ascend past it, or sink below it according to its behavior (“according to the degree of their errors”) while incarnate
    • Souls are judged according to Providence
  • SH 26.3:
    • Souls are handled according to two ministers: the Steward and the Escort
    • The Steward of Souls watches over unembodied souls
    • The Escort of Souls sends souls to be incarnate into bodies appropriate for their purpose according to Providence

What we get when we look at the Korē Kosmou, and SH 25 in particular, is the notion of a dwelling-place (perhaps even “storehouse”) of souls, with a neat diagram-friendly arrangement of where certain souls go to after death.  Walter Scott has such a diagram ready to go on page 595 of volume 3 of his Hermetica series when offering his commentary on SH 25:

The account given in SH 25 and 26 is annoyingly unclear at points about what these specific grades are of soul, even though we have a reasonable understanding about the strata of the atmosphere they were supposed to retire to between incarnations.  Presumably, animal souls would be in the first division (fish, lizards, birds, and beasts from bottom to top) with human souls of various kinds above that, culminating in the most royal of souls destined to be kings and emperors over the world in the highest stratum of the uppermost fourth division.  Beyond that, we don’t have a lot of information about the specifics of these grades, the process of a soul traveling from a body to its proper stratum, the process of being sent down by the Escort of Souls, or the like.

What I find appealing here is that we can tie this division of the atmosphere in SH 25 to the realm of punishment from AH 28.  Bear in mind that such a realm of punishment is marked by storms, turbulence, and the like, and how they’re described to be “in the open air” neither on Earth or in Heaven but somewhere in-between.  In SH 25, we see that the lower grades of air are reserved for baser, ignoble souls, including those destined for animal incarnation (whether because they are already animal souls as they are, or whether they are human souls to be punished via animal incarnation, as is suggested in SH 23.41—42).  The major difference between these texts is that, for the author of the Korē Kosmou, incarnation itself is punishment, while for the Asclepius, there is a separate punishment after incarnation.  As a result, when SH 25.10 says that “in no way is this recycled air [of the lower divisions] a hindrance to souls”, it has a completely different role in mind for such a region of the atmosphere than what AH 28 has in mind.  Notably, AH 28 does not have a doctrine of reincarnation detectable to my eyes: if it permits for it, it doesn’t say so explicitly, but if it does, then such an everlasting punishment by being tossed into some turbulent zone of the atmosphere is the cosmos’ way of taking a particularly naughty soul, indelibly stained with its sins as it is, “out of circulation”, while allowing other souls to incarnate as appropriate to them.  It’s another perspective, I suppose, but the similarities in the models here are important, even if their intents and descriptions differ in the details.

There’s one last thing I want to mention before we begin the process of tying all this together: SH 7 is another separate Hermetic text, and a short excerpt provided by Stobaeus from a treatise of Hermēs related to Justice.  Here, we have a description of Dikē, the goddess of Justice (Litwa translation):

The greatest female daimon who wheels round the center of the universe has been appointed, my child, to observe everything that happens on earth at the hands of human beings. Just as Providence and Necessity are appointed over the divine order, in the same way, Justice has been appointed over human beings–and she performs the same activity as Providence and Necessity do. For she controls the order of existing beings inasmuch as they are divine, do not wish to err, and cannot. Indeed, it is impossible for the divine to go astray—hence its infallibility.

Now Justice is appointed to be punisher of human beings who err upon the earth. Humanity is an <errant> race, inasmuch as it is mortal and composed from base matter. They are especially prone to slip since they do not possess the power of seeing the divine. Justice especially holds sway over these people.

Humans are subject to Fate due to the energies operative in their nativity; and they are subject to Justice due to their mistakes during this life.

I note that the role of Justice here in SH 7 is strikingly similar to the “avenging daimōn” of CH I.23, to the judging demon of AH 28, and to the role of Providence (and arguably also the Steward and/or Escort of Souls) in SH 26.  Further, while not explicitly handled by some sort of external entity, there are bits like CH X.16 that talk about “leaving the soul to judgment and the justice it deserves” after it departs from a body.  We don’t see a lot of this sort of divine intermediation or interference in the Hermetic texts, and to an extent I don’t much care for the notion of it (I’ll share why later on), but it’s common enough that we should at least bear it in mind and consider it.

But for now, let’s cut this here.  Now that we have an understanding of what the relevant Hermetic texts have to offer about notions of the afterlife, we can let that sink in for a bit, and we’ll pick up with actually fitting them together next time.

A Little Discourse On Apianus’ Cosmological Diagram

Okay, so, this thing:

A lot of people who’ve been around in Western occulture or astrology have probably encountered this image before in one context or another (it’s even appeared before on my own blog in a discussion about Ashen Chassan’s implementation of the Trithemian conjuration ritual and again when I discussed the Hermetic tormentors in CH XIII), and so many of us are familiar with this image to one degree or another.  True, it’s a really neat depiction of a Renaissance version of the geocentric Ptolemaic model of the solar system and cosmos, but there’s other stuff going on in it that I really want to explore and explain.

To start with, where does this image come from, and what specifically does it depict?  This illustration of the celestial spheres was originally made by the German humanist, mathematician, astronomer, and cartographer Petrus Apianus (anglicized as Peter Apian) in his 1524 work Cosmographia.  Apianus depicts this “scheme of the divisions of the spheres” for his second chapter, “on the motion of the spheres and the division of the heavens”.  At the center of the image we have the Earth, depicted as a circle of seas and land (corresponding to the elements of Water and Earth), surrounded by a sphere of clouds (Air) and that by flames (Fire). Outside the Earth, in successively larger concentric circles, we have the seven celestial spheres for the seven planets following the usual Chaldaean ascending order: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn.  Skipping to the outermost edge of the whole thing (the eleventh “sphere”, as it were, though it’s really more like the infinitude beyond the spheres as a whole), we have “the Empyrean Heaven, Dwelling-place of God and of all the Chosen”. This is divine infinity beyond all the spheres, unlimited and unbounded and unmoving, under/within which all creation exists.  All straightforward stuff for most people, I suppose.

But it’s the stuff between the heaven of Saturn and the empyrean heaven that trip up a lot of people: the eighth, ninth, and tenth spheres.  To head off such speculation at the pass: no, it’s nothing qabbalistic or sephirothic in any meaningful sense (Apianus doesn’t appear to have been interested in such stuff).  Each of these circles in Apianus’ diagram all have the twelve signs of the Zodiac in them, but they’re respectively described as “the eighth heaven of the firmament”, “the ninth crystalline heaven”, and “the tenth heaven, the first cause”.  While all being zodiacal, they’re all somehow…different?  On top of that, they’re not all aligned with each other, only the eighth heaven has little stars in it, and the ninth heaven has this weird quartered-circle symbol at the ends of the sectors for Virgo and Pisces.  So what’s going on here, exactly?

Welcome, dear reader, to the funtime of medieval astronomy and cosmology!

Let’s start with the tenth sphere, the Primum Mobile (“First Mover”).  Ironically, despite being the most distant finite sphere of all (finite at least in comparison to the truly infinite empyrean heaven surrounding it), this is probably the easiest for us to approach.  The Primum Mobile is the outermost sphere and rotates endlessly, setting all things underneath/within it into motion as well, much like if you spin a pitcher of water, the water inside the pitcher itself won’t spin immediately but is set into motion by the spinning of its container.  In the old geocentric model of the cosmos, the Primum Mobile rotates constantly, performing one complete rotation every 24 hours, moving clockwise from the East to the South to the West to the North all the way back to the East.  According to Apianus, there exists precisely one and only one star in this tenth heaven.  Which star?  He doesn’t say and it’s not wholly clear to me, though if I were to leap to an assumption, I’d say that it’d be the northern pole star α Ursae Minoris (aka Polaris), given how this star was historically and culturally reckoned to be the axis (literally the “pole”) of rotation of all the heavens.

Let’s skip over the ninth heaven for a moment and take a look at the eighth heaven called the “firmament” in Apianus’ diagram.  This heaven is what contains the background stars of the nighttime sky that don’t wander around from night to night, month to month, or year to year.  This is why we call such stars “fixed stars”, as opposed to the “wandering stars” (ἀστέρες πλανῆται asteres planētai) of the planets (whose motion is defined according to their own heavens).  It’s because the eighth heaven of the firmament contains the fixed stars that Apianus’ diagram has all these stellated figures in this circle.  As for the motion of the eighth sphere, Apianus describes it as being subject to the motion of the tenth sphere such that they move all at once as the tenth sphere does, which is why the night sky as a whole rotates around the Earth once per 24-hour period.  Easy enough, I guess.

Between the eighth and tenth spheres is the ninth, described as “crystalline or aqueous” by Apianus (though just labelled as “crystalline” in the diagram).  First, what we can pick out is those two quartered circles.  Although they occur at the ends of the sectors for Virgo and Pisces, they’re really intended to be between these signs and the ones that follow to mark the equinoxes: the September equinox (occurring at the end of Virgo and the start of Libra) and the March equinox (occurring at the start of Aries and end of Pisces) respectively.  As for the motion of this heaven, Apianus says that the ninth heaven “vibrates” (trepidat), which causes the fixed stars in the eighth heaven to move forward and backward.  This would make no sense to modern folk today, but what Apianus is describing was a feature of older forms of astronomy: trepidation, a sort of oscillation in the precession of the equinoxes.  While an obsolete theory nowadays, trepidation has its origins as far back as the 4th century CE and was popular generally from the 9th to 16th centuries (putting Apianus roughly at the end of that period).

First, let’s back up a bit and talk about precession of the equinoxes (and yes, the ancients knew about axial precession all the way back in the 2nd century BCE).  Imagine a top, like the child’s toy: you pick it up, you give it a twist, and it spins around on its point upon a flat surface until it loses enough momentum to keep itself balanced.  At first, when the momentum is fast, the top stands upright, but as it continues, it eventually develops a kind of “wobble”, such that the axis of rotation is no longer precisely upright but ends up rotating on its own in a circle.  As the axis itself wobbles and rotates around, it causes the whole top to rotate in a different way on top of its already ongoing rotation around the axis, including the relative position of where such rotation around its axis “starts”.  This is what is meant by “axial precession”, and when it’s applied to the Earth as a whole, we call it “precession of the equinoxes” because it’s what causes the whole of the background sky to appear to “rotate backwards” relative to its daily regular motion—which includes the equinox points where the ecliptic (the Sun’s path around the sky) crosses the celestial equator.  The axis of the Earth precedes in a complete loop roughly once every 26000 years (currently 25772 years given our current observed rate of precession).

The theory of trepidation, on the other hand, suggested that the rate of the precession of the equinoxes was not a constant rate, but varied and could go either forward or backward.  In the original theory from the classical era, reversing its direction every 640 years or so.  Thus, given a rate of precession of 1° every 80 years, after 8° (thus 640 years), the precession would reverse into procession, such that the equinoxes would move forward eight degrees for the next 640 years, then reverse again, and so forth.  In later and more popular models from the medieval period (especially in Islamic astronomy), trepidation was more of a smaller, less-rigid variation that added to the motion of precession, where the oscillation provided by trepidation occurred over 7000 years, causing the precession of the equinoxes to take place over 49000 years rather than 26000.  It’s this later model that Apianus was describing and subscribed to when he says that the ninth heaven “trepidates”.

Interestingly, the ninth heaven (at least in Apianus’ model) was starless.  While the eighth sphere was full of fixed stars (all conceived of as being roughly the same distance away from the Earth in this geocentric model) and the tenth having just its one sole star (Polaris?), the ninth is a void having nothing in it—except, perhaps, the “waters which were above the firmament” (Genesis 1:7).  Apianus using this biblical model to describe the distant heavens would explain his description of the ninth heaven as being “aqueous”, and would moreover suggest that the wobbling of trepidation could be accounted for by the ripples and waves occurring in such celestial waters.

So there we have it!  We’ve finally knocked out what those intermediate heavens are in Apianus’ famous cosmological diagram, situated between the planetary heavens and the ultimate divine one.  While some of this might be a new thing for some, when placed in its own historical context, all of this is the natural development and expected evolution of a Renaissance take on the geocentric Ptolemaic cosmic model, depicted in a beautifully concise diagram.

But there’s still one issue left: why do the zodiacal sectors not line up in those eighth, ninth, and tenth heavens?  If you look at the eighth and ninth spheres, they line up exactly at Aries and Libra (the equinox points), but they seem to diverge slightly (starting at the east-north-east part of the diagram) before converging again (at the opposite, west-south-west part).  I have honestly no explanation for this beyond it being an artistic whoopsie; after all, sometimes considerations of space and communicability (in the form of the stellated figures and the circle labels) make accuracy and precision a secondary concern.  I feel like there should be a better reason than that, but I haven’t honestly found one beyond it just being something handmade in a constrained space.

But then there’s the dramatic mismatch between the zodiacal sectors of the eighth and ninth heavens with that of the tenth heaven, which can’t possibly be just a slip.  The tenth heaven has Aries starting at the due east point of the diagram, while the eighth and ninth heavens have it starting to the northeast.  What gives?

Well, using my handy-dandy free-to-use planetary observer software Stellarium for the year 1524, we can see exactly what’s going on:

The bright slightly-slanted orange line is the ecliptic, with the faint orange grid of lines being the ecliptical coordinate grid based off it to look at points in the night sky.  The bright more-slanted blue line is the celestial equator (which divides the sky into a “north” part and “south” part).  The ecliptic intersects with the equator at two points, which is where we call the equinox points.  In this case, the image above is centered on the March equinox point, where the ecliptic goes from being below the celestial equator (on the right) to above it (on the left).  The small squiggly faint blue lines in the background indicate constellations, and as you can see, the March equinox point is hanging out somewhere in Pisces, with Aries to the left and Aquarius to the right.

It should be remembered at this point that Western astrology (and historical astronomy, for that matter) has been founded on the notion of a “tropical zodiac”, which is to say a zodiacal system comprising twelve equal 30° segments of the night sky (according to the ecliptic) where the starting point of it (0° Aries) aligns with the March equinox point (where the ecliptic crosses to rise above the celestial equator).  Thus, we consider the segment from 0° to 30° of the ecliptic to be the sign Aries, from 30° to 60° Taurus, from 60° to 90° Gemini, and so on through from 330° to 360° (o°) to be Pisces.  The issue here—as many of my astrologer friends on Twitter are tired of hearing—is that this notion of “sign” doesn’t match up cleanly with the actual physical constellations of the night sky.  Although the constellations were more-or-less aligned with the signs once upon a time, due to precession of the equinoxes, the constellations began drifting “forward” from the signs while the signs drifted “backwards” from the constellations.  Again, precession here was something known to older astrologers from a very early date, so this came as no surprise to any of them—and it’s precisely this mismatch that Apianus is documenting between the eighth/ninth heavens and the tenth heaven.

Thus, in Apianus’ diagram, the tenth heaven’s zodiacal sectors represent the tropical zodiac (aligned to the seasons and the ecliptical crossing of the celestial equator), while the eighth and ninth heavens represent the actual constellations and stars of the sky (which would be a sidereal zodiac, literally “according to the stars” as opposed to according to ecliptical intersections).  This is why the equinox markers (those quartered circles) are placed in Pisces and Virgo in Apianus’ diagram (because technically we have those equinoxes occur while the Sun is in one sign according to the tenth heaven but in another constellation according to the eighth/ninth), and why the Aries sector of the eighth/ninth heavens in Apianus’ diagram start in the northeast rather than th eeast, just as it does celestially if you consider the March equinox point to be due (celestial) east.

Also, one more note: yes, it’s true that while the tropical zodiac doesn’t align with the constellations, neither does the sidereal zodiac.  In both of these zodiacal systems, we’re working with signs, not constellations, and a sign is defined as being a 30° segment of the ecliptic.  The tropical and sidereal zodiacs are identical in every regard except for one: at what point along the ecliptic it should start as being o° Aries.  The tropical zodiac defines this to always be the intersection between the ecliptic and the celestial equator, but the sidereal zodiac…well, it’s a little more complicated.  The sidereal zodiac aims to be closer to the constellations by using what’s called an ayanāṃśa to account for the precession of the equinoxes, and there are a number of different ones in use with some more popular than others (resulting in what’s technically a number of sidereal zodiacs rather than just one).  The issue with even this sidereal approach, however, is that the actual constellations themselves that lend their names and symbolism to the signs don’t neatly align with this equal-segments-of-30° approach.  Some signs are much shorter than 30° (as short as Scorpio’s 6°), some signs much larger (as large as Virgo’s 44°), and there’s even that dumb stupid notion of there being a “thirteenth sign” (Ophiuchus) because its constellation is considered close enough to the ecliptic to make it count (it doesn’t).

Courtesy of this article from Kosmic Mind, here’s a depiction and comparison of the tropical zodiac (inner circle), rough sidereal zodiac (middle circle), and the constellations (outer circle):

Apianus’ diagram makes use of a sidereal zodiac for the eighth and ninth heavens but a tropical zodiac for the tenth heaven, but does not bother with trying to use the constellations themselves (because they weren’t ever really used except perhaps in classical Babylonian or otherwise ancient Mesopotamian times).

Anyway, I thought this was all pretty neat to consider and learn about.  While we today all understand, given the advances of astronomy and physics we’ve had over the past five centuries since Apianus’ time, that a heliocentric model of our solar system is a more accurate descriptor of what’s going on, the geocentric model is still what we intuitively “see” and “feel” from our perspective down here on Earth.  It’s for that reason, coupled with the various and varied religious and cultural traditions that we inherit, that the geocentric model likewise helps us for innumerable spiritual endeavors and systems, too.  I mean, as a comparison, consider the following diagram, produced by Walter Scott in volume 3 of his Hermetica, page 374 in his discussion of the sixth Stobaean Fragment (SH 6):

SH 6 talks about the decans and their relationship to the signs and how their energies affect us down here, and in the course of such a discussion, we end up with a cosmological model again consisting of ten spheres: with the Earth in the center, there’s the seven planetary heavens around that, the eighth heaven of the Zodiac, the ninth heaven of the decans, and then the outermost heaven that wraps around everything.  In this fragment, Hermēs describes the heaven of the decans to be “in between the circle of the universe and that of the zodiac, dividing both circles”, and that the decans “buoy up, as it were, the circle of the universe and define the shape of the zodiac”.  Hermēs describes here also the motion of these heavens with each other, with the tenth heaven whirling constantly, the ninth heaven slowing it down and throttling it, and the planets being whirled around and accelerated by the motion of the decans; in this, the decans move both the planets as well as the outermost sphere of the cosmos itself.  It’s certainly not the same model as what Apianus was describing over a thousand years later, but there are certainly commonalities as both share in a common geocentric Ptolemaic ancestor, and both aim to describe the cosmos according to what we can see and observe down here on Earth.

Notably, we should also remember that what Apianus was getting at wasn’t so much to describe a spiritual reality of the cosmos, but rather a scientific one according to the science of his time.  His Cosmographia is an incredible and well-designed work, and besides the fascinating woodcarved illustrations also included little movable dials and tools that allowed readers to interact with the illustrations to learn about cosmology, geography, cartography, and other sciences.  As a result, it’s been argued that such a work as his not only facilitated better understanding of such topics popularly, but also spurred on the field of amateur astronomy precisely by equipping people with the basic tools they needed, preparing for and facilitating the later scientific revolutions that were to come.  However, even if his aim was more purely “scientific” in the modern sense of the word, we can’t neglect that such sciences are just one part of our lives, with the physical aspects to be integrated with the spiritual, which would also go a ways in explaining why Apianus’ cosmological diagram depicting the various heavens is so popular in occult discussions even today.  (And which also lends itself to some rather beautiful modern pieces of art as well.)

And yes, as the astrologer and geomancer Eric Purdue (yes, the same one who recently translated Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy afresh and correctly into modern English!) took the opportunity to reiterate on Twitter: the signs lie outside the stars, and we shouldn’t conflate signs with constellations.

The above post was originally a thread on Twitter, which you can read here but which I’ve reformatted and expanded into a proper blog post.  Although I made it earlier this summer and then promptly forgot about it, a conversation on one of the Discord servers I’m on reminded me that I wrote about it, so I figured that I may as well make it a bit more visible and readable.

My Own Seven Prayers for the Seven Days of the Week

What can I say?  I like things that come in sets of seven—what mage doesn’t?—and I’m feeling generous today, so let me share with you another set of seven prayers I use in my own practice, this time a set to be used one for each day of the seven-day week.  I’ve shared this before in my Preces Castri ebook of Abrahamic prayers for a quasi-Islamic Hermetic approach to spirituality and mysticism, too, along with a whole bunch of other goodies, much like my Invocations of the Seven Temples that I also shared a ways back, so if you’re interested in things along these lines, do check out the ebook!

Originally, I didn’t intend on sharing these prayers too widely, if at all; they were originally something that I was working on, refining, adapting, and building up over the course of almost two years as part of my own development of my aforementioned Abrahamic quasi-Islamic Hermetic practice.  While I don’t use them as much anymore, or at least in the ways that I used to, I still find good uses for them all the same; there are plenty of examples of such prayers across the grimoiric traditions of Western magic as well as a variety of spiritual and religious traditions from which the grimoires took inspiration.  In following those steps, I developed my own set of weekday prayers.  While I didn’t think to share these on my blog at first, since there are just some things I think are relatively intimate while other things I feel like saving for a future prayer book, given that my own practice has changed so dramatically from when I originally wrote these prayers and that they’ve already been out in one form for a while already, I figure that at least a few others could benefit from this being shared rather than just myself benefiting from it being kept to myself.  Besides, in this time of continued chaos and weirdness, I suppose we could use all the tools we can get, I suppose.  In that light, why not share these?

Although I can say that I composed these prayers, I can’t say that they’re wholly an original bit of writing.  I’ve taken free and liberal inspiration from a variety of sources, sometimes cribbing their language, sometimes keeping it the same and sometimes reordering or shuffling them around, and throwing in a number of other influences as well.  The biggest influences in the writing of these prayers come from the following sources:

Each prayer is composed of two paragraphs.  The first paragraph is a series of invocations of God, calling upon the various attributes, names, titles, and roles that the Divine plays, categorized according to the ruling planet of the day; this bears the strongest grimoiric influence.  The second paragraph (largely the supplications associated with Sayyida Fāṭimah, reordered slightly to fit a better association with the planet ruling that day) is a series of supplications to God and meditations on God, which also has some of the more traditional Hermetic stuff thrown in as far as the planets are concerned.  The overall prayers as a whole are written largely as mystic and philosophical supplications, appropriate for anyone in an Abrahamic tradition to be sure (and thus the great majority of grimoiric magicians), as well as for those who allow a…I guess a so-called “hieromonist” Hermetic practice.  (I’m not sure what else to call a path that has at least a God, regardless whether it also has other gods, so either monotheistic on its own or polytheistic with a central, on-a-different-level-entirely all-creator deity in a way that much of Hermetic literature seems to describe; I myself am of the latter persuasion.)  Of course, with a bit of tweaking, I suppose each of these prayers could be refocused to call on the seven planetary gods themselves, too, but these prayers weren’t written with that use in mind.  But, with that, let’s move onto the prayers themselves.

Prayer for Sunday, the Day of the Sun:

O incomparable Lord, o God who is beyond any equal, without beginning and without end! O God, almighty and supreme, the singly holy and wholly benevolent! King of Kings, Lord of Lords, whose essence is that of unsurpassed goodness and beauty, whose eternal power is matched with incomprehensibly infinite Light, whose endless mercy and grace are given freely and generously! O you who sealed all of creation with the spirit of courageous fortitude, who grants light to shine freely and ungrudgingly that all may perceive the Good, who grants us the holy power of your steadfastness by your light, life, and goodness!

Be propitious, o Lord, and grant that this and every day, every week, every month, every season, and every year of my life begin with success, continue with righteousness, and end with joy. Let me always turn to you that I might always seek and obtain your mercy, your grace, your blessing, your virtue, and your light for the fulfillment of my divine purpose and your divine will. Let my praise always rise up to you, the beginning and end of all that is, and let my understanding of the All be a harvest of tribute for you, without falling prey to the domineering arrogance and avarice of my own works. Let your blessing and goodness be enough for me, and let me know the fullness of your blessing and your goodness, I who rely upon you, your blessing, and your goodness, now and always.

Prayer for Monday, the Day of the Moon:

O my strong Lord, o my almighty and ever-living God, o Divine and Forbearing One! O supreme Creator of All, o almighty King of All! O you who created and fashioned mankind, who embellished the heavens with stars, who adorned the Earth with flowers and animals, before the sight of whose most royal power every creature trembles in awe! O ruler of the living and the dead, who made mankind in wisdom to rule over and tend to creation, bearing witness to Nature in piety and prudence! O you who sealed all of creation with the spirit of wondrous awe, who grants those who live the blessings of sleep and silence and memory, who grants us the holy power of your knowledge by your light, life, and goodness!

Nothing in our lives can be accomplished except with the strength you provide us; all in this world can only be done according to your Will. I ask you to grant me the strength I need that I might worship you without faltering, comprehension of that which you have taught to your prophets and to me through them, and understanding of your Will that you seek for me to fulfill. Let me not be mislead by worldly illusions of growth or decay, for your creation is perfect in your having created it. Do not render that which I have learned barren, do not make that which I practice fruitless, do not turn me away from the path that I walk; but give me the strength I need to learn what I must learn, do what I must do, go where I must go, and become what I must be, for your honor and glory.

Prayer for Tuesday, the Day of Mars:

O my perfect Lord, o God of eternal strength, o indescribable and invisible God whom none can or could ever see! O powerful, divine, almighty Lord whose wrath dries the bottom of the sea, whose sudden glance breaks mountains! All the people on Earth tremble in awe of you, all the spirits in the Abyss dread your power, and all the powers in Heaven worship your goodness, you who are righteous in all your glory! O you who sealed all of creation with the spirit of prudent judgment, who grants those who struggle the fruits of their labors, who grants us the holy power of your justice by your light, life, and goodness!

Many forget your divinity, but I do not forget you. Many neglect your worship, but I will not neglect you. May I always remember you, and when I turn to your remembrance, may I always thank you. I will speak from the depth of my heart whatever I say with this tongue to you. Unbegotten yet in every begetting, unimagined yet in every image, uncaused yet in every cause! By your remembrance, may I recognize and subdue the rash audacity that holds me back from remembering you, enabling myself to dare to attempt the works of holiness that you have established for me to do. Complete and perfect are you, o God, who need nothing, but whom all need. May I fulfill my purpose, my true will according to your own will, that all the world may be complete and perfect as best as I can make it, that all that is done in the world may be accomplished according to your will.

Prayer for Wednesday, the Day of Mercury:

O Lord my God, o divine Repairer, o you who are All-Aware! O God, o Lord and King of all creation, creating all things within and above the heavens, commanding and controlling all the powers of Heaven! O God, all-hearing and all-seeing who dwells on high and beholds the humble, who creates and gives out all wisdom and knowledge! You are the one who gives such authority to your own people that the powers of the cosmos might be as obedient to them as they are to you, o God who endures forever beyond all! O you who sealed all of creation with the spirit of reverent piety, who grants moderation and persuasion and invention and blessing to all, who grants us the holy power of your joy by your light, life, and goodness!

You never succumb to sleep or weariness; you never falter in strength or support. May your eye always watch over me, and your presence always preserve me. Protect for me that which would be lost were it not for you; keep for me that which would be taken were it not for you. Restore to me what I have lost and regain for me what has been taken from me, all that which pertains to my body, my soul, my spirit, and my mind; all that which pertains to the Earth, and all that which pertains to Heaven. Heal me and soothe me, o Lord; repair me, renew me, and rescue me from despair and wickedness that I might enter more fully into the house of your knowledge and continue my work with joy in my heart according to your Will.

Prayer for Thursday, the Day of Jupiter:

O righteous Lord, o Holy of Holies! O God, o God, my God, my God! O God, o Maker, o Father! O praiseworthy and incomprehensible divinity, whose height of grace is immeasurable and whose mercy infinitely profound! O possessor of all power and presence in the wholeness of creation! O source of all dominion and hope in the order of creation! O mighty creator and royal ruler of all that which is visible and invisible, seen and unseen, heard and unheard, known and unknown! O you who sealed all of creation with the spirit of charitable understanding, who grants fortune and hope and peace to all that they might not devote themselves to unholy war, who grants us the holy power of your liberality by your light, life, and goodness!

From you and your teachings, from you and your mysteries, from you and your powers, from you and your prophets do I seek guidance and nobility in all the ways of life. It is acts of charity and justice which you love and which please you; grant that I might always act in charity and justice to mankind! Unworthy and undignified as I am, by your infinite goodness do I beseech you that you replace my weakness with your strength, my poverty with your wealth, my greed with your generosity, my mortality with your immortality, and my ignorance with your knowledge. Help me to always thank and remember you that I might always praise and worship your goodness, for it is in this which is truly right for me to do.

Prayer for Friday, the Day of Venus:

O gracious Lord, o God of supreme splendor, o Divine Reckoner of All! O you after whom we all chase, beloved beyond all by all the faithful! O you who are benevolent beyond all benevolence, who keeps all evil away from us by your goodness, who possesses the endless sea of goodness from which all good comes! O you from whom all things come and to whom all things return, from whom derives all true compassion and all true love! O Father who delights in his own people coming to know him, who does not turn away his creatures for their weakness! O you who sealed all of creation with the spirit of faithful knowing, who grants the joy-bringing blessings of pleasure and laughter that life might not be punished beyond measure, who grants us the holy power of your temperance by your light, life, and goodness!

Open for me the treasuries of light, life, and goodness that I might be made wealthy by your grace and mercy. Provide for me from your abundant blessing a pure and good livelihood, keeping me near to sufficiency and far from paucity, keeping me near to satisfaction and far from covetousness, both in needs of this world as well as of you. Help me to increase my thankfulness to you, that I might always turn to you in all my needs and wants, seeking help from you and taking refuge in you. Be generous to me, o God; let me seek shelter in you in good times as well as in bad. Let me obtain what you love for me to have, and let it be a haven, a sanctuary, a source of strength for me, o wonderful God!

Prayer for Saturday, the Day of Saturn:

O all-knowing Lord, o God who is God, o God of Gods! O Lord our God, greatest and most supreme, whose might is utterly irresistible, who fashioned mankind, who arranged all of the cosmos according to your will! O you who created the entirety of creation: all of Heaven and Earth, all of the seas and lands, all that is in all parts of the world! O you who are exalted above all that has or will ever come to be! It is you, o God, you alone, who lifts us, who raises us, who gives life to the dead and new life to the already-living! O you who sealed all of creation with the spirit of holy wisdom, who grants justice and necessity to the cosmos and us the means to live within them, who grants us the holy power of your truth by your light, life, and goodness!

O God, keep me among the nearest of those who seek nearness to you; keep me among the most illustrious, the most blessed, the most fortunate of all who turn to you! Grant me your blessing and mercy, o Lord, and let me not die until my proper time as only you can judge; grant me to acquire the virtues I require to purify and prepare myself that I might not die and pass away from this world without coming to know you. Render upon me your favor and grace, o God, that I may be sincere in my faith and upright in my standing, that my soul may ever rise up to always sing your praise. Save me from joining with error and partnering with ignorance, that I may escape the danger of deceit and find a holy haven in truth; save me from that which I have done wrong or wrongly done, and help me that I might only do that which is right and that rightly by your mercy.

Although none of the foregoing prayers ends with “amen”, I usually use that word to close my prayers whenever I seek something or supplicate that something be done, so please feel free to use it or a similar word or phrase if you so desire, or not at all if you don’t.

Based on my own practice when I was using these prayers regularly, I would encourage using these weekday prayers in two ways:

  1. As a part of your daily morning prayer routine, following all other standard prayers that get said every day in the same order.  “Closing” that regular sequence of prayers with a weekday prayer helps to focus and establish yourself for the coming day.  Following this, I’d also encourage engaging in a bit of silent prayer and contemplation, contemplating the words of the prayer itself, and letting it guide you into a deeper state of holy silence.  Following this, I would encourage wrapping up with a few other, more magical-than-devout prayers that you might say in addition to the above, but in my experience, the weekday prayer functions excellently as a final “formal” prayer in my Divine-centric practice for a daily routine.
  2. In the preparation for a planetary-specific working done on the day of the planet.  So, if you’re engaging in a work of Mars at nighttime after sunrise on Tuesday morning but before sunrise Wednesday morning, you mihgt recite the Prayer for Tuesday as part of your preparation.  Otherwise, if you’re doing a work of a planet not on its own weekday, I would instead recommend that you omit saying any weekday prayer and simply skip ahead to the planet-specific stuff.

With that, I hope you might find these prayers useful!  And yes, I’ve already made a separate page for easy reference under the Prayers menu.

Justifying a Hermetic Vegetarianism

At the very end of the Logos Teleios, aka the “Perfect Sermon” and more commonly known as the Asclepius (or AH for short), we find the beautiful Prayer of Thanksgiving, which we have preserved in Latin, Greek, and Coptic.  It’s a beautiful expression of devotion, love, and praise for Divinity from a Hermetic standpoint, and is good to recite (in one form or another) by many people engaged on the Way of Hermēs.  However, it’s not the prayer that’s grabbed my attention this time; rather, it’s the narrative description that follows just afterward.  This led me to a bit of thinking and a rather long blog post; please bear with me as we take a bit of a garden path stroll through the Hermetic texts to talk about something that plays into implementable practice and, moreover, explaining it from a Hermetic standpoint.

The Asclepius is an interesting Hermetic text; unlike most of the Hermetic texts, which are preserved as simple dialogues or as a letter from teacher to student, the Asclepius has an actual narrative structure involved at the very start and very end, giving it a set and setting of its own.  It opens up in AH 1 with Hermēs sitting with Asklēpios in a temple, with Tat and then Ammōn joining them soon enough, at which point:

…the reverence of the four men and the divine presence of God filled that holy place; duly silent, the minds and thoughts of each of them waited respectfully for a word from Hermēs, and then divine love began to speak.

At the end of the discourse (AH 40—41), after Hermēs has told his students “everything that a human being could say”, they get up to worship God—and interestingly, outside of the temple.  After they pray the Prayer of Thanksgiving, there is this interesting conclusion to the prayer.  In the Latin version of the Asclepius, it reads:

With such hopes we turn to a pure meal that includes no living thing.

A similar statement is given in the Coptic version, preserved as text #8 in codex VI of the Nag Hammadi Codices.  Unlike in the Latin, this is a narrative statement rather than a concluding remark:

When they prayed and said these things, they embraced and went to eat their sacred bloodless food.

The presence of this line (along with the ritual directions for praying facing certain directions and refraining from offering incense to God) has been read to suggest the presence of an actual Hermetic community of one sort or another, whether decentralized or not, as well as indicating that this is more than a mere literary tradition of “read mysteries” but one with actual ritual acts, and that done communally.  Setting aside that scholarly discussion as it happens in academia, for those of us who care less about the historical implications and want to focus more on the practical implementation of the texts, this description/injunction is useful.  We can interpret it in one of two ways:

  1. In a strict approach, this can be read to say that ritual discourses or other ritual acts should be followed with a communal meal, which is to be vegetarian in nature.
  2. In a lax approach, this can be read to encourage followers of the Way of Hermēs to be vegetarian in general, both for ritual purposes and otherwise.

In either case, whether or not such a vegetarian meal is limited to ritual contexts, there does appear to be some indication that vegetarianism is desirable to some extent.  It’s far from uncommon in a classical context, to be sure; abstinence from meat (in Greek sometimes called ἀποχὴ ἐμψύχων apokhē empsukhōn “abstinence from ensouled beings”) was a documented thing of the Pythagoreans and Orphics, and Platonists and Peripatetics alike encouraged it, as well.  According to the Stoic author Chaeremon of Alexandria, Egyptian priests in his time also abstained from meat, which (along with wine) appeared to cause a “weakness in the senses and dizziness in the head…but especially because of the strong sexual desires that are the results of these kinds of food and drink”, to say nothing about how the slaughter of animals (with its necessary violence) could cause the souls of the animals to linger around their bodies and thus the meat that issues from it (more on what Chaeremon says later).  That Hermēs Trismegistos would encourage vegetarianism is unsurprising, at least for a ritual context if not a broader lifestyle.  However—besides just a general push for it because that’s just what mystics, priests, philosophers, and holy people did back in the day—it’s not clear why that should be the case from a Hermetic standpoint.  Answering this question can take many different avenues, but I have a theory of my own, and that begins with the Coptic translation of a vegetarian meal not just being one that “includes no living thing” but which is specifically “bloodless”.

Is it wise to base something on just one translation like this when variants exist?  The Coptic version of the Asclepius is a fascinating text; it’s only a fragment of the broader Asclepius, matching to what we’d recognize as AH 21—29 in the Latin text, and it’s not an exact match, either; it roughly covers the same ground, but it has some fairly stark differences in what it presents and how it presents it.   The differences between the Coptic and Latin versions of the Asclepius suggest that there were likely several different “lineages” of the Asclepius all stemming from some Greek original, and there are certain clues between the Coptic version preserved in the Nag Hammadi Codices with what few scraps of the older Greek versions that still exit that show that the Coptic translation adheres more closely to the original than the comparatively free-wheeling Latin translation.  It’s on this ground that I think hinging something on the Coptic could be worth our while.

So, “bloodless”.  Blood is something that is generally fairly important for us as living being, but the Asclepius is generally silent on matters regarding blood.  However, if we expand our scope from that text to classical Hermetic texts generally, we see some super nifty descriptions of blood in the Corpus Hermeticum (CH), namely from the CH X.13—17 where Hermēs talks about soul and its relation to the body generally:

A human soul is carried in this way:  the mind is in the reason; the reason is in the soul; the soul is in the spirit; the spirit, passing through veins and arteries and blood, moves the living thing and, in a manner of speaking, bears it up.  Some hold, therefore, that the soul is blood, mistaking its nature and not seeing that the spirit must first be withdrawn into the soul and then, when the blood thickens and the veins and arteries are emptied, this destroys the living thing; and this is the death of the body.

When the soul rises up to itself, the spirit is drawn into the blood, the soul into the spirit, but the mind, since it is divine by nature, becomes purified of its garments and takes on a fiery body, ranging about everywhere, leaving the soul to judgment and the justice it deserves.

In an earthy body occurs the combining of these garments, my son, for the mind cannot seat itself alone and naked in an earthy body. The earthy body cannot support so great an immortality, nor can so great a dignity endure defiling contact with a body subject to passion. Mind, therefore, has taken the soul as a shroud, and the soul, which is itself something divine, uses the spirit as a sort of armoring-servant. The spirit governs the living being.

The initial bit about “the mind is in the reason, the reason is in the soul, etc.” from CH X.13 also bears a striking resemblance to statements from CH V and CH XII:

(CH V.11) The matter composed of the finest particles is air, but air is soul, soul is mind, and mind is god.

(CH XII.13—14) The blessed god, the good demon, has said that soul is in body, that mind is in soul, that reasoned speech is in mind and that god is their father.  Thus, the finest of matter is air, the finest air is soul, the finest soul is mind and the finest mind is god. And god surrounds everything and permeates everything, while mind surrounds soul, soul surrounds air and air surrounds matter.

It’s taken for granted in the earlier Hermetic treatises that we have souls, and theories and models of the soul are explained in later texts and fragments, but it’s not always clear how the different texts agree with each other, if at all, given the various perspectives and opinions that individual texts espouse.  One of the topics of this intertextual conversation between different Hermetic authors is a discussion regarding how the soul is carried in the body; it’s said time and time again that the soul is somehow carried in the body, whether explicitly or metaphorically, but it’s not always clear how the soul is related to the body.  For the purposes of this present post (this is a super complicated topic, and I’m still working through the details in my own research!), we’ll take for granted that the soul is somehow carried in the body, but using CH X.13—17 as a basis for discussion, we can see that the soul does not directly inhabit the body.  Rather, the soul is better thought of being present within spirit, which itself is present within blood, which is what is present within the body.  This is the solution proposed by CH X to reconcile the difficulty in explaining how an immaterial, incorporeal entity (the soul) can communicate with or control or inhabit a material, corporeal one (the body): by using spirit, as the most incorporeally-corporeal substance which can also be the least corporeally-incorporeal substance, as an intermediary between the two.

On the role of spirit, well…outside the CH X excerpts above, there is comparatively little in the Corpus Hermeticum, or indeed in most of the non-Asclepius Hermetic texts, that talks about spirit (πνεῦμα pneuma) from a technical or scientific perspective; generally it’s at a higher-level, more nebulous sense.  The closest we get is from CH III.1—2, which describes a very high-level cosmology.  I know I have my own translation that I like referring to, but I’ll rely on Copenhaver here as I have in the rest of this post:

In the deep there was boundless darkness and water and fine intelligent spirit, all existing by divine power in chaos. Then a holy light was sent forth, and elements solidified out of liquid essence. And all the gods divide the parts of germinal nature.

While all was unlimited and unformed, light elements were set apart to the heights and the heavy were grounded in the moist sand, the whole of them delimited by fire and raised aloft, to be carried by spirit. The heavens appeared in seven circles, the gods became visible in the shapes of the stars and all their constellations, and the arrangement of this lighter substance corresponded to the gods contained in it. The periphery rotated in the air, carried in a circular course by divine spirit.

Spirit appears to be something that pervades the cosmos, and indeed has its origins described as being something totally cosmic, according to CH I:

(CH I.9) The mind who is god, being androgyne and existing as life and light, by speaking gave birth to a second mind, a craftsman, who, as god of fire and spirit, crafted seven governors; they encompass the sensible world in circles, and their government is called fate.

(CH I.16) When nature made love with the man, she bore a wonder most wondrous. In him he had the nature of the cosmic framework of the seven, who are made of fire and spirit, as I told you, and without delay nature at once gave birth to seven men, androgyne and exalted, whose natures were like those of the seven governors.

(CH I.17) …the birth of the seven was as follows. Earth was the female. Water did the fertilizing. Fire was the maturing force. Nature took spirit from the ether and brought forth bodies in the shape of the man. From life and light the man became soul and mind; from life came soul, from light came mind, and all things in the cosmos of the senses remained thus until a cycle ended and kinds of things began to be.

Spirit is a quality of the Demiurge, and thus of the Logos of God, which proceeds from the Life of God much as the fire of the Demiurge/Logos proceeds from the Light of God; the spirit and fire of the Logos/Demiurge is also what the planets are composed of.  Because fire and spirit are demiurgical/logical correspondences of the divine light and life, respectively, we can also say the same of the mind and soul of humanity.  This correspondence, established all the way back in CH I, associates spirit with soul as ontologically forms of “life” that proceed from the Life of God.  Moreover, spirit is something that pervades and fills the cosmos—perhaps issuing from the planets, or otherwise directed by them, or perhaps which are directed by spirit?—and through spirit, life is possible.

However, when it comes to the Asclepius, there’s quite a bit more specific stuff we can look to regarding the role and activity of spirit, which is generally paired with or contrasted against the role and activity of matter:

(AH 6) The spirit that fills all mixes with everything and enlivens everything.

(AH 14) There was god and hulē (which we take as the Greek for “matter”), and attending matter was spirit, or rather spirit was in matter, but it was not in matter as it was in God nor as the things from which the world came were in God…But hulē (or the nature of matter) and spirit, though from the beginning they seem not to have come to be, nonetheless possess in themselves the power and nature of coming to be and procreating. For the beginning of fertility is in the quality of nature, which possesses in itself the power and the material for conceiving and giving birth. Nature, therefore, can breed alone without conceiving by another.

(AH 16—17) Spirit supplies and invigorates all things in the world; like an instrument or a mechanism it is subject to the will of the supreme god. For now let this be our understanding of these issues. Understood by mind alone, the god called “supreme” is ruler and governor of that sensible god who encloses within him all place, all the substance of things, all the matter of things that produce and procreate, all that there is whatsoever and however much there is.  But spirit stirs and governs all the forms in the world, each according to the nature allotted it by god. Hūle or matter, however, receives them all, spirit stirs and concentrates them all, and god governs them, apportioning to all things in the world as much as each one needs. He fills them all with spirit, breathing it into each thing according to the quality of its nature.

Based on the Asclepius, we have a notion that spirit is what facilitates “the will of God”, for lack of a better term, and which is the means of activity/energy in things as it pervades all things coterminally with matter.  Spirit, being the substance that “enlivens everything” and “stirs and governs all the forms in the world”, is what allows for matter to take on form and energy.   If we combine our understanding of spirit from the Asclepius with the role of it from CH I and CH X, we have this notion that bodies can take on/be affected by energy because all matter is pervaded by spirit, and even some bodies can be alive with spirit alone (i.e. plants, cf. AH 4 and AH 6).  However, there are other bodies that have spirit which itself contains/is inhabited by/is pervaded(?) by soul, and those bodies are what we would call ensouled living beings.

So where am I going with this?  There’s one more bit I need to bring up before I get to my point about how all this ties to vegetarianism: how the soul “works” in the human being.  There’s much in the Stobaean Excerpts (SH) on the soul, but a good introduction to this would be these:

(SH 3.5—8) These are the kinds of souls: divine, human, and non-rational. The divine soul is the energy that propels its divine body, for it moves by itself in its body and also moves its body. When the soul of mortal animals separates from its non-rational parts, it goes off into the divine body which is ever-moving and moved in itself. In this way, the soul circles round the universe. The human soul has a portion of the divine. Yet non-rational elements, namely drive and desire, are attached to it. Drive and desire are also immortal inasmuch as they are energies, the energies of mortal bodies. These energies are far from the divine part when the soul inhabits the divine body. But when this divine part enters a mortal body, drive and desire travel round with it; with them present, a human soul is always the result. The soul of non-rational animals is composed of drive and desire. Accordingly, these animals are called “non-rational”, since their souls lack reason.

(SH 2b.6—8) The reason is, first of all, that the soul must battle with itself, make a violent separation, and be taken advantage of by one part. The battle is of one against two. The one flees, while the others drag it down. Strife and manifold conflicts occur among them—the one part desires to flee, while the others eagerly hold it down. The victory of each part is not the same. The one rushes toward the Good, the others reside with evils. The one yearns to be free, but the others are content with slavery. If the two parts are conquered, they stick to their own affairs, deprived of their ruler. But if the one part is conquered, it is driven by the two and conveyed as a punishment to life in this realm. This discourse, my child, is the guide of the path to the upper world. Before you reach the goal, you must, my child, first abandon your body, conquer this life of struggle, and after conquering, ascend!

(SH 17.1—3) Thus the soul, Ammōn, is a reality perfect in itself. In the beginning, soul chose a life according to Fate and drew to itself a rationality adapted to matter. (The soul) had in its control both drive and desire. Indeed, drive exists as matter. If drive generates a disposition fitted to the soul’s intellect, it becomes courage and does not fade away under fear. Desire, for its part, affords the same possibility. If it is produced as a disposition conforming to the rationality of the soul, it becomes self-control and is not stirred by pleasure. Reasoning fills up the insufficiency of desire. The virtue of justice is born under three conditions: when both drive and desire agree, when they produce a balanced state, and when they are controlled by the soul’s rationality. Their balanced state removes the excessiveness of drive and compensates for the insufficiency of desire.

There’s this Platonic notion in the Stobaean Excerpts of the soul not being the only thing that animates a body; sometimes it’s called the soul put against drive and desire (thumos and epithumia, basically ego-driven needs and id-driven needs to borrow Jungian terms), sometimes it’s called the higher/divine soul put against the lower/animal soul, but the idea here is the same: the soul is the truly divine/higher part of what animates a human body that drives the human onto divine/higher things, while the animal/base/lower soul is what spurs the body on towards animal/base/lower needs and actions.  This notion of drive and desire (expressly and explicitly hammered out by Litwa in his Hermetica II) is super common in the Stobaean Excerpts, but we have to really try to see such a model in texts like the Corpus Hermeticum; this may be a later Platonic import into Hermeticism, or it may be just the Platonic bias of John of Stobi when he compiled his Anthology, but we can get a whiff of similar notions.  Combining this perspective from the Corpus Hermeticum and the Stobaean Excerpts, there’s this notion that part of the process of spiritual elevation/ascent and the salvation of the soul is that we need to live our lives in a way that tames the drive and desire that arises from the body and separates the (higher/divine/proper) soul from this drive and desire.

Which brings me back to someone I mentioned towards the start of this post: Chaeremon of Alexandria, a Stoic philosopher and author of various works regarding Egyptian society, science, religion, and culture who lived in the first century CE (so roughly contemporaneous with the earlier stage of classical Hermeticism).  It is from Chaeremon that we get some really insightful stuff, albeit preserved only in fragments quoted by later authors, regarding the lifestyles and practices of Egyptian priests in post-Ptolemaic/Roman Imperial Hellenistic Egypt.  Given the recent academic leaps in understanding more about the history and context of classical Hermeticism and the development of the Hermetic texts, especially with the discovery of texts like the Demotic Book of Thoth, we have a better appreciation of how much Egyptianity is present in Hermeticism, and how much of that was derived from the philosophy, religiosity, teachings, and practices of Egyptian priests.  A few I’d like to bring up regarding the consumption of animals:

(Jerome, Adversus Iovinianum II.13) They always abstained from meat and wine because of the weakness of the senses and the dizziness in the head which they experienced after a little (of this) food, but especially because of the strong sexual desires that are the results of these kinds of food and drink. They seldom ate bread, in order not to overload their stomachs; and if sometimes they did eat it, they also used pounded hyssop in the food so that by its heat they could consume the more heavy food. They used oil only with vegetables, but this too in small quantities in order to mitigate the nausea and the acid taste. “What should I say”, he said , “about birds, for they (sc. the priests) abstain from egg, too, as if it is meat, and from milk. They said that the former (sc. an egg) was liquid meat, the latter (sc. milk) blood with a changed colour”.

(Porphyry, Epistula ad Anebonem II.8) They also command that their priests must abstain from animal food so as to avoid being stained by the vapours from the carcasses, although they themselves are strongly allured by vapours from sacrifices; and (they command) that the initiate must not touch a dead body, although it is for the most part by means of dead animals that the gods are evoked.

(Porphyry, De abstinentia II.47) Theologians have rightly paid attention to abstinence, and the Egyptian informs us of these things, giving a most natural reason for them which he verified by experience. For since a bad and irrational soul which tried to depart the body after having been detached from it by violence yet stays near to it (because the souls of men who die by violence also keep themselves near to the body—a fact which should prevent one from committing suicide)—since, then, violent slaughter of animals compels souls to delight in the bodies which they leave, the soul is by no means prevented from being in the place to which it is attracted by its kindred. Hence many souls are seen to lament and the souls of the unburied adhere to the bodies, souls which are abused by sorcerers for their own service, pressing them by retaining the body or part of it. Since, therefore, they (sc. the theologians) examined these things and the nature of a bad soul and its relationship to and pleasure in the bodies from which it was torn away, they rightly avoided feeding upon meat.

(Porphyry, De abstinentia IV.7) As to the products of Egypt itself, they abstained from all kinds of fish, and from such quadrupeds as had uncloven hoofs or had toes or had no horns, and also from such birds as were carnivorous. Many of them, however, even entirely abstained from all animals. And in periods of fasting and purification all of them did so; then they did not even eat an egg. But also as to other kinds of food they practised a not unexceptionable rejection; e.g. they rejected the consumption of (female) cows, and of such male animals as were twins, or blemished, or piebald, or of unusual shape, or tamed (considering them as having been already consecrated by their labours), or those resembling animals that are honoured—whatever imitation one may think—or one-eyed, or those that verged on a likeness to the human form…These are some of the religious observances that were common to all, but there were others which varied according to the class of priests and were proper to each individual god. But the periods of purification and fasting observed by all (priests) were clean. This was the period when they were to perform something pertaining to the sacred rites. Then they spent a number of days in preparation, some forty-two, others more, others less, but never less than seven days. And during this time they abstained from all animal food…

(Porphyry, De abstinentia IV.9) They even worship a man in the village Anabis, where they sacrifice and burn the victims for him on the altars; and he may eat, shortly afterwards, the things appropriate to him that have been prepared for him as a man. So, as one should abstain from eating man’s flesh, one should abstain also from the meat of other beings.

Similar bits go on at similar length, and it doesn’t just stop with consuming animals; I’ve even seen some restrictions on priests (not just in Chaeremon) regarding not wearing wool or leather, but I think the most fascinating bit from this is that bit from Porphyry’s De abstinentia II.47 regarding the violence inherent in slaughter and how an avoidance in consuming meat could be theologically grounded in how a soul is attached to the body it was separated from, especially animal souls.  This bit is especially fascinating, because in texts like CH I, SH 23, and other Hermetic or Platonic texts, animals are explicitly called irrational beasts—just as “bad and irrational souls” in this Porphyry excerpt calls them.  We also see that a complete ban on all animal-based food was employed by some priests, if not all priests, and if not at all times, at least for periods of ritual-relevant purification.

I think at this point I have enough evidence at hand to bring up my theory regarding the exhortation to a vegetarian meal at the end of the Prayer of Thanksgiving in the Asclepius.  Let’s sum up everything and trace out an argument that leads to something insightful:

  • Although some corporeal bodies have life (e.g. plants), some corporeal bodies are alive and also animate due to the presence of soul in them.
  • The presence of incorporeal soul in corporeal body is facilitated through spirit and blood; blood is in the body, spirit is in the blood, and soul is in the spirit.  Through this gradation of progressively higher, subtler, more incorporeal, less corporeal substances, we can “embed” or “carry along” incorporeal things within corporeal things in something that looks like a localized manner.
  • Animal souls can be said to be composed of drive and desire (thumos and epithumia), while human souls are a combination of a higher/divine “proper” soul (created by God) along with drive and desire (provided from the animal body we inhabit).
  • The Hermetic idea of salvation is centered around a notion of an “ascent of the soul” away from material, corporeal concerns, and the  Hermetic way of life is likewise centered around taming and controlling the drive and desire of the body so that the soul is not so bound and attached to corporeal, material things.
  • Eating is something that satisfies the body’s epithumia, and we know that matter is what supplies and sustains bodies—but we also know that gluttony is “the supplier of all evils” (cf. CH VI.3, which Copenhaver notes as an allusion to the Egyptian notion that the belly is treated as a “container of sins”).
  • Irrational souls, when parted from the body that contained them, hang around the bodies that they inhabited, and can affect or be affected by things that happen in this world for as long as they linger.
  • Eating meat was seen by the Egyptian priests as causing issues such as dizziness in the head and the arising of strong sexual desires.

My theory is, extracting this from its original (Greco-)Egyptian context and providing a solely-Hermetic opinion according to its own logic, that by consuming the flesh of animals—that which had blood in it—was seen by the Hermeticists (or at least the author of the end of the Asclepius) as also consuming the irrational soul that inhabited that flesh.  Because such irrational souls of animals consist of drive and desire, bringing such drive and desire of the animal we consume makes us more animalian/irrational in turn, increasing our own drive and desire.  Even after the “spirit withdraws into the blood” and “soul withdraws into the spirit”, even if there is no soul left in the body, we might say that there are traces or aftereffects of the soul and spirit in the blood, or at least that such an irrational soul of drive and desire hangs out around the flesh of the animal.  If one of the goals of Hermetic practice is to free the (higher) soul from (the lower soul composed of) drive and desire, that latter being considered to be all the soul that an animal has, then to partake of animal flesh could be seen to add to one’s own drive and desire, weighing one down more; after all, our own souls—or at least the irrational, lower part of it consisting of drive and desire—can be just as easily affected as any other such irrational soul.  To that end, a vegetarian diet is recommended, whether ritually if one were to be strict about it or generally if one wanted a more “pure” lifestyle, so as to avoid the risks that lead one to error and distraction inherent in consuming meat.

Now, I admit that some of that does seem to be a bit of a stretch, and it also raises the question of “how much blood is there in meat?” or “what’s even the point of koshering meat?”.  However, it could be thought (based on what we know of Hermetic ideas regarding soul, spirit, and blood) that because spirit pervades all things, and because soul would also probably need to pervade the body it inhabits, then blood would also need to pervade a body thoroughly—which it does, even if some forms of preparation (osmosis via soaking and salting, roasting, etc.) can remove most of the blood.  Moreover, if this line of thinking is at all similar to what might have gone through a classical Hermeticist’s head, then vegetarianism would be encouraged, not as a matter of animal welfare or respect for metempsychosis, but more like a Chinese Buddhist abstaining from the Five Pungent Spices, not because they were somehow sinful to consume in and of themselves but because they “excited the senses” (e.g. make you sexually excitable, or otherwise heedless in favor of seeking pleasure), and thus more prone to committing errors in one’s lifestyle and practice.  Not only would vegetarianism then be appropriate for ritual preparation or meals (we should avoid engaging in things that drag the soul down if we’re aiming to elevate the soul), but this line of thinking would naturally lead to a vegetarian lifestyle in general, even outside of ritual.  Consuming blood itself, of course, would be right out, whether in liquid or congealed form or in forms like blood sausage, but anything containing blood in any amount—especially that of a slaughtered lifeform—would be considered something that could drag the human soul down or otherwise increase the potency of one’s drive and desire to a point that could cause problems in their life.

Of course, if this is the logic, then there also probably arises the possibility of not just exsanguinating slaughtered animals in a way similar to koshering meat to remove the vast majority of blood, but also of just outright exorcising the meat we eat so that it becomes sanctified in a way that doesn’t drag us down by pumping up our drive and desire—but this kind of side-stepping doesn’t seem to be extant in the historical record available to us, and either wasn’t considered possible or wasn’t considered plausible.  Despite my quoting excerpts of Chaeremon above, I’m not fully acquainted with the nuances of Egyptian priestly prohibitions on consuming meat, but there may be something in there that’s just not avoidable, something inherently “exciting” about consuming meat which was seen as tainting or distracting from spiritual and religious endeavors.

To my mind, this is the most likely reason for encouraging vegetarianism in Hermeticism, whether for ritual purposes itself or for a more general lifestyle.  This doesn’t, however, touch on other common reasons for vegetarianism that we might hear about from other traditions in the classical world; I suggest that these, while they are reasons, are not Hermetic reasons.  To wit, what I’d consider to be the most common classical argument for vegetarianism and against consuming meat, dealing with metempsychosis or the transmigration of souls, isn’t what was thought of as a reason for Hermetic vegetarianism.  While Hermeticism certainly has a notion of reincarnation and the transmigration of souls in a number of texts, there is also a notion that human souls can only be born in human bodies (cf. CH X.19, though contrast this against CH X.8 which seems to state the opposite).  Unlike those who considered souls to be reborn in any sort of lifeform, it seems like that reincarnation and metempsychosis of human souls in Hermeticism is generally limited to human bodies—and if not, it seems like what animals go through as a matter of them being animals is a matter of deserved punishment for such a soul that had the ill fate to be born in such a body.  That a soul you might know in life could be reborn in an animal body does not seem to be a reason, according to the logic of the Hermetic texts, to outright encourage vegetarianism (though one could take that as a personal stance, should one so choose).

Besides this, the other major thumos-/epithumia-unrelated argument I can think of is that humans should be nonviolent.  This is more unclear than the previous reason, but was also a super common reason to encourage vegetarianism, as a means of recalling a sort of Golden Age lifestyle where there was no need for violence or slaughter.  There is nothing stated outright or explicitly in any of the Hermetic texts I can think of that say one should be nonviolent in general, but it could be read that reasonable nonviolence could be encouraged as a matter of abstaining from “unholy presumption and daring recklessness” (CH I.25) or injustice (CH XIII.7—8).  I think that this stance could be justified as a reason for encouraging vegetarianism, whether ritually or generally, perhaps as a means by which one might abstain from violence.  Moreover, although this suggests that all acts of violence are necessarily irrational, and although it could be seen to play into the drive-and-desire reason from before, this really only really address the slaughter of animals, not the consumption of them.  To me, this is a grey area; while one can take this as reason, I don’t think it’s the reason for encouraging vegetarianism in a Hermetic context.

At this point, here I am well over twice the wordcount I normally post (though a good chunk of that was quotations), at the end of this post that only touches on a super complicated topic to talk about; to even just discuss the question “why vegetarianism?” from this perspective raises a whole slew of other questions that might need to be answered first, to say nothing of bringing up so many other topics all at once that hinges on the nature of the soul, and the very notion of the soul in the Hermetic texts also necessarily brings up the teleology and eschatology of the soul, the “end goal” and “destination” of the soul, along with so much else in the doctrine of the Hermetic texts.  What I brought up above only barely scratches the surface of such a discussion—maybe I’ll have a series of posts detailing a Hermetic “theory of soul” at some point in the future, but that’s not now.  In the meantime, this is just my own thinking of half-baked thoughts to come up with a preliminary theory that arises from a super complicated topic.  Still, I think it’s a useful theory to go by because of how much of an impact it could have for our lived practice in the here and now, and such a theory could open up other interesting avenues of exploring spiritual practice in various approaches using all the means available at our disposal.

And, of course, a bit of nuance to round out this post: while I wouldn’t outright suggest that everyone should commit to a vegetarian lifestyle in general, I think that doing so at least for short stints as part of purification practices or while engaging in ritual is a highly recommended thing, and those who do commit generally to a vegetarian lifestyle would probably find themselves better suited to spiritual practices and development along the lines of classical Hermeticism.  I fully recognize and support that some people require animal-based proteins in their diet for their health and well-being, and I also know that many cultures emphasize the consumption of meat in one form or another as part of a healthy and socially-acceptable diet even while some in that culture simultaneously encourage vegetarianism as an ideal (e.g. Tibetan Buddhists in the vegetation-scarce Tibetan Plateau).  I do not write this post to shame people into abandoning meat (or animal-based products generally); far from it, I write this post to offer a theory about why this one specific classical Hermetic text encourages a vegetarian meal, and do not suggest by it that Hermeticists must be vegetarian in general or that non-vegetarians cannot be Hermeticists.  After all, Hermeticism is less of a temple cult or institutionalized religion, and many such religions require the consumption of meat for religious purposes as a means of communion or medicine, to say nothing of the various practices calling for the offering of meat or the ritual slaughter or sacrifice of animals for religious or magical ends.  Still, within a Hermetic scope, vegetarianism is (to my mind) encouraged by the Hermetic texts as one of the (many) means of continuing the process of spiritual elevation that we seek, and one that is required for ritual contexts even if not more generally as a lifestyle diet, though I would not say one cannot be a Hermeticist if one is not vegetarian in their day-to-day diet.

PS: One more thing, though—and this is more of a side-topic than anything—relating to ensoulment of bodies.  If, following the logic of CH X, souls can only be present in body with spirit-carried-along-by-blood acting as an intermediator, what of the “ensouled statues” of AH 24 and AH 37—38?  These are physical, material, and corporeal bodies that the Hermeticist calls down gods to inhabit, but what allows such a soul to inhabit such a body?  AH 38 says that “the quality of these gods” is composed of:

…a mixture of plants, stones and spices, Asclepius, that have in them a natural power of divinity. And this is why those gods are entertained with constant sacrifices, with hymns, praises and sweet sounds in tune with heaven’s harmony: so that the heavenly ingredient enticed into the idol by constant communication with heaven may gladly endure its long stay among humankind. Thus does man fashion his gods.

I would propose that, in the compounding of these substances to effect the ensoulment of a statue, the “plants, stones and spices” act as a statue’s “blood”, because (since they “have in them a natural power of divinity”) these things are able to carry soul-laden spirit in a way that blood is also able to do for us.  Moreover, it is also through the interaction of humans with these statues by means of sacrifice and worship and hymning that we keep such a thing “alive”, as if these things provided the pulse for the circulation of such “blood”.  What this indicates to me is that, while spirit pervades all things in the cosmos, some things are able to facilitate or contain more of spirit, or are able to contain a more rarefied kind of spirit.  In this case, having an abundance of spirit or a fineness of spirit is what allows incorporeal soul to interact with or inhabit it, and through it with corporeal bodies.  This is an extrapolation on my part, combining the doctrine of how soul is embodied from CH X with the description of ensouled statues from the AH, and could also stand to be refined heavily given other stuff throughout the Hermetic texts, but it is an interesting idea to play with.