Unlocking the Observatory: The Spiritual Cosmology of Zoroaster’s Telescope

Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the obscure Telescope of Zoroaster (ZT), a manual of divination and spirituality originally published in French in 1796 (FZT) at the close of the French Revolution, which was later translated into German in 1797 (GZT) and then again in an abridged form as part of Johann Scheible’s 1846 Das Kloster (vol. 3, part II, chapter VII) (KZT), with Scheible’s work then translated into English in 2013 as released by Ouroboros Press (OZT).  Although OZT is how most people nowadays tend to encounter this system, I put out my own English translation of FZT out a bit ago as part of my research, and while that translation was just part of the work I’ve been up to, there’s so much more to review, consider, and discover when it comes to this fascinating form of divination.  Last time, we talked about . If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

※ For those following along with their own copy of ZT (get yours here!), this post does not touch on any specific chapter of the text.

Something I touched on briefly in the last post is that, nestled amidst all the interpretations and significations of the tiles as given in ZT’s “First Supplement”, there’s a weird trend specifically with the Intelligence tiles.  These tiles have meanings just like all the others, but there’s a few I want to specifically highlight:

  • Genhelia ☉: Physical soul, home country.
  • Seleno ☾: Earth.
  • Erosia ♀︎: Universal magnet (“love”).
  • Panurgio ☿: Sea.
  • Lethophoro ♄: Darkness (literally “night”), water.
  • Aglaé ♃: Air.
  • Adamasto ♂︎: Fire.
  • Psykomena ☽: Foreign country.
  • Psykelia ◎: Heavenly soul, light (perhaps metaphorically “day”).

Unlike many of the tiles, these seem to be connoting things less about omens or matters of future, and indicate more cosmological aspects.  It’s kind of a neat trend, and it emphasizes how important the nine Intelligences are to the well-ordering of the world around us.  Unlike in astrology proper (which, of course, ZT says is basically just charlatanry) where the planets themselves effect their influences in our world, ZT establishes that the things that happen in the world are effected by the Intelligences of the planets, not the planets themselves.  This reaches not just into the vagaries of emotion and action between humans (as influenced through their natal angels and natal stars which have planetary rulerships themselves), but even into the very world around us, where e.g. fire is an expression of the activity of Adamasto/Mars, the winds of Aglaé/Jupiter, and so forth.  In classical grimoiric (or at least Agrippan) terms, ZT’s Intelligences might be thought of either as grimoiric planetary intelligences or as planetary spirits, being either the tools that shape creation or the raw material that forms it, all in the hands of the Creator (or the two Principles).

What’s so fascinating about this is that this is just one small aspect of a much grander vision of the Great Cabala that ZT proclaims.  True, ZT is a divination manual, a short introductory handbook laying out the fundamental principles of a cute sort of divination, and most people would be inclined to pick it up, read it, and put it down as being nothing more than that.  But, as much as ZT talks about a divination process, ZT also talks about so much more at the same time, spending at least as many words on spirituality, cosmology, and even (dare we say it) religion as it does on divination.  It’s not that it’s hiding this, either; it’s rather up-front and blunt about it, but it doesn’t lay it out as clearly as it does its divinatory content.  By that same token, it’s something that’s more obscured in KZT/OZT because, again, KZT took the original ZT content and abridged it, cutting out a lot of the religious and spiritual flavor and content we see in FZT/GZT for the sake of presenting a more condensed divinatory manual.  If we turn to the older texts like FZT/GZT, however, we find a lot more of this sort of thing, especially in the Epistle.

Like, consider how ZT talks about itself at the start of the “Second Supplement”:

Hence, for once, the gaze of the being to whom the Pure Spirit will have given the eyes such a being needs in order to discover certain sublime objects—by these, we say, and by means of this second supplement—the gaze of the Elect will be able to soar to the highest point of the cabalistic Pyramid, of which the seven Steps earlier described are only its base and first layers. As these approved eyes look upward along the faces of this mysterious edifice, it will happen—should the Pure Spirit allow it—that the clouds, at first reaching down to the ground to hide everything from the profane eye, will rise so slowly as to barely be noticed at once. Stone is succeeded by marble, marble by crystal, crystal by diamond, and diamond finally by a heavenly brilliance—but the Elect are not like to be dazzled with damage. This brilliance, which shows that the Pure Spirit is within this whirlwind of light, retains a final shroud, the only one that the human condition is not allowed to penetrate.

What ZT teaches may well be just a divination system, but what it gives us is far more than just a means to predict the future.  The whole of ZT, both the divinatory system specifically as well as the Great Cabala more generally, is intended to access that which is superhuman by familiarizing the reader with those selfsame superhuman intelligences. The “Key” that ZT provides is not just a key to a particular practice of divination but rather “the key to the superhuman riches of which the Great Cabala is the inexhaustible store”, one that is even “a master key which will open not just the main doors but all the side doors, all the cupboards, all the drawers, and even the smallest secrets”.

To understand what ZT means by “superhuman”, let’s first talk about the word “occult”, literally meaning “hidden”.  This word can be understood in two ways: the secret or hidden virtues in things that confer surprising or powerful benefits to those who know how to tap them, or to teachings and disciplines kept secret and occluded from public dissemination for the education of and use by the few. Anything that cannot be seen or otherwise perceived by the physical senses of the body are, in one sense or another, “occult”, and have historically been bound up in the various traditions and teachings of any number of religions, mysticisms, and spiritualities. To modern sensibilities, many of the activities and interests of such systems deal with what is termed the “supernatural”, which is to say things that are not wholly within the physical and material realm of nature. However, not all such systems would agree that these things are necessarily “supernatural” if all things already belong to a more pervasive view of nature.  In that light, ZT says in its introduction that the Great Cabala has nothing “supernatural”, but rather has things in it that are “superhuman”, things that are technically beyond our reach as human beings. Rather than drawing a distinction between that which is of nature (“natural”) and that which is beyond it (“supernatural”), ZT draws a distinction between what is human and what is superhuman, seeing both as ultimately belonging to the one and same nature of Creation. Although the word “superhuman” is occasionally used throughout ZT, the bulk of the understanding and use of this word comes from the Epistle—and, for that matter, the Epistle provides much of the spiritual contextualization for ZT as a whole, being an apologia of sorts for engaging with the spirituality of ZT.  (This just compounds how much of a shame it is that this compelling essay only appears in the earlier versions of ZT and not in the more condensed versions as in KZT.) The Epistle uses the word “superhuman” a number of times to refer not only to entities as spirits or intelligences, but also to the work of divination, divine inspiration, and holy obligation. At the same time, the Epistle does not classify all spiritual or occult things as superhuman, as it denies that “black or diabolical” magic can rightly be called “superhuman”.

Rather than thinking of “superhuman” to mean “spiritual” or “occult”. it may be better to consider this word in the mind of the author of Epistle (and ZT more generally) to mean “holy”. This then suggests that the word “human” as the antonym of “superhuman” should be interpreted to mean “profane”, but this is not borne out by the Epistle. There are references to “purely human sciences” or that most humans are content with mere reason, but the Epistle also refers in equal measure to humans of genius or otherwise pious humans who admit and seek after divine things with the respect due to them. However, by definition, humans on their own cannot enter into or attain to the superhuman; to do so requires the active participation of the superhuman to grant humanity such access.  As the introduction of ZT itself says:

As to what is superhuman (which does not mean “supernatural”) in the Cabala, the mere idea contained in the word “superhuman” establishes in proof that we cannot lay hold onto what it expresses, and therefore we cannot give it away. It is a definition that can make its own existence felt.

The most common use of the word “superhuman” in the Epistle is to refer to “superhuman intelligences”, referring to immaterial entities with their own agency and capacity for communication, action, and interaction. The term “intelligence” has been used to refer to such immaterial or spiritual entities throughout much of European magical and grimoiric literature, even affecting later spiritual traditions such as Spiritism, so finding it used here should be no surprise especially as a more refined approach to other words such as “spirit”, (although GZT merely refers to them as übermenschliche/himmlischen Wesen “superhuman/heavenly beings”).

As that first passage I quoted above above says, so much is dependent upon not just the dedication and studies of the one who studies ZT, but on the permission and presence of the “Pure Spirit”, because ZT is not purely a thing of humanity and thus requires the superhuman in order to delve into it properly.  So what exactly is the “Pure Spirit”?  Basically, it’s the ZT’s equivalent of the Christian notion of the Holy Ghost, but we need to unpack this idea a bit more to get at what ZT considers this to be, along with ZT’s notions of divinity generally.

Although we can’t truly say that ZT is a Christian work in a technical sense, it is abundantly clear that its author has had a Christian education and upbringing, because the author uses a number of quotes and stories from the Old Testament and New Testament alike, and the author counts themselves as a Christian writing for an assumedly Christian audience. It is certainly true that, as OZT notes in its introduction, “the 18th century was an active time for occultism”, both across the whole of the Western world as a whole in general but especially in France in its transitionary period between the ancien régime and the République. However—even in the face of such infamous occultist circles as La Voisin and the Affair of the Poisons, even given the relative freedom of exploration for heterodox religious beliefs—there were still limits as to what was deemed acceptable or pious for public consumption. It should be no surprise, then, that at least some Christian, or otherwise broadly Judeo-Christian, influence is evident in the spirituality of ZT. Although there is little of Christ or any salvific figure involved in ZT, one would reasonably find ZT’s notions of the Supreme Being and the Pure Spirit to be its analogues for God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Although there is no specific discussion of the Supreme Being (also called the “Eternal One”, “Almighty”, or “Creator”) or Pure Spirit in the ZT, they are referenced throughout it all the same, as well as in Epistle and the Epilogue. The “Second Supplement” explicitly states that it was the Supreme Being that Moses saw in the burning bush, and that Gabriel announced to Mary the birth of Jesus on behalf of the Supreme Being. However, despite the explicit identification of ZT’s Supreme Being with the God of Abraham, absent are the latter’s jealous or even judgmental aspects. Rather, ZT speaks of the Supreme Being as a pious mystic would: worthy of our reverence and devotion and connection, having in mind our best interests and loftiest aims in mind, and wanting to develop us to the point where we might reach them either through their merciful loving-kindness or through their castigating “tough love”. All things are possible for the Supreme Being, and likewise, all things are determined and allotted by the Supreme Being.

Historically, it should be noted that, while “Supreme Being” is a reasonable moniker for the Godhead in many Christian contexts, it should be noted that there was also the Culte de l’Être suprême “Cult of the Supreme Being”, a form of deism pioneered by Maximilien Robespierre and established in France as a state religion during the French Revolution in the early 1790s. This new civic religion was intended to maintain a pious theism as well as social order without descending into the anthropocentric atheism of the Cult of Reason (which appalled Robespierre) nor permit the excesses of Catholicism to continue in the newly-established Republic. In the Decree Establishing the Cult of the Supreme Being on 18 Floréal II (7 May 1794) at the National Convention, it was declared that:

  • The French people recognize the existence of the Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul.
  • They recognize that the worship worthy of the Supreme Being is the practice of the duties of man.
  • They place in the first rank of these duties to detest bad faith and tyranny, to punish tyrants and traitors, to rescue the unfortunate, to respect the weak, to defend the oppressed, to do to others all the good that one can and not to be unjust toward anyone.

Given the publication date of 1796 for FZT, even in spite of the Epistle’s sympathies for the then-deposed aristocracy and nobility, it is impossible to ignore the possibility of Revolutionary religious influence in ZT, at least to some small degree. In a historical and social context where much of the old established order was being upturned so as to build a new one, and considering how much animosity the author of ZT has towards a variety of traditional occult disciplines such as astrology or geomancy, it may be that the author of ZT was (in their mind) trying to recover some long-lost pristine spiritual practice, much as the French Revolution attempted to reclaim the democratic heritage of ancient Greece and Rome. This tendency may be evident in ZT’s encouragement of astronomy and discouragement of astrology, seeing the former as essentially useful and the latter as essentially corrupt, much as revolutionary tendencies in a wide array of cultural arenas elsewhere would have sought to do away with the old and fixate upon the new, or at least newly-recovered. In that light, ZT may well be avoiding an explicitly Christian spirituality and instead tapping into the revolutionary current of its time so as to develop its own revolutionary understanding of divinity.  Of course, given the blatant aristocratic and royalist leanings of the author of ZT (and especially pronounced in the Epistle), maybe this is reading too much into it, putting the cart before the horse: it may be relying on an overall French spirituality that ties as much to Catholicism as it does to revolutionary deistic cults.

Far more commonly mentioned in ZT than the Supreme Being, however, is the Pure Spirit, also occasionally called the “Pure Mind”. Mentioned only twice in Epistle but mentioned at least once (and often many times) in the majority of the chapters of ZT including the Epilogue, the Pure Spirit is a nebulously-defined numinous presence that facilitates the divinity of the Supreme Being in our world. It is the Pure Spirit that is itself the source of all truth; it was the Pure Spirit to whom the ancient Magi dedicated their temples, and it is the Pure Spirit to whom the Cabalists of ZT direct themselves for succor in their cabalistic and divinatory works. ZT is clear on this last point: it is only through the Pure Spirit’s inspiration that the reader might actually perform works of divination, guiding them to speak truth even (or especially) when the diviner runs up against the limit of the methods of ZT. However, the Pure Spirit is not some passive matrix of spiritual presence; ZT describes the Pure Spirit as having an agency and will of its own, deigning to work at some times but not at others, allowing some humans to perform certain works but not other humans or other works.

In many ways, even if one were to discount any Christian involvement in the development of ZT, it is clear that the Supreme Being and Pure Spirit would be close analogues to the Catholic notions of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, though there is no notion of salvation in the ZT, precluding the necessity for an analogue of God the Son. It may better be said that, although both the Supreme Being and the Pure Spirit are God for the author of ZT, the Supreme Being is more distant than the Pure Spirit is, and it is the Pure Spirit who acts as both the presence of God as well as the gateway to God, giving primacy to the Pure Spirit only insofar as is necessary to participate in divinity. It may be said, then, that the Pure Spirit functions as an analogue both to the Catholic Holy Spirit as well as Christ, as it is the breath of the Pure Spirit in ZT that allows one to be truly and divinely inspired.

And, of course, we shouldn’t confuse the Supreme Being or Pure Spirit with the two Principles of Sisamoro and Senamira, either.  If the Supreme Being is the Creator of all Creation, then the two Principles, Sisamoro and Senamira, can roughly be considered as rival demiurges or underlying actors within the dynamic system of the cosmos. In this light, when ZT says that Sisamoro is “inifinite goodness” and Senamira is “infinite wickedness”, the descriptions of Sisamoro and Senamira come into greater clarity, especially with the footnotes noted above. Sisamoro is the encosmic principle and source of all goodness, purity, light, and bliss, while Senamira is the same but for all wickedness, depravity, darkness, and suffering. It is because of this that ZT states that Christians have interpreted the former to be “God” and the latter “Satan”, employing a sort of antagonistic dualism already known to the reader as asserted by the author.  It has to be said that the Principles form one of the few links from ZT to the actual Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism: ZT points out that, because these names are present in the divinatory system, the system must therefore come from that ancient religion.

Sure, the religion of Mazdayasna (“the worship of wisdom”) was founded on the teachings of Zarathustra in the 6th century BCE worships one universal, supreme, transcendent, all-good, and uncreated creator Ahura Mazda (“Lord of Wisdom” or “Wise Lord”) who dwells above, from which emanates asha, the spiritual force of cosmic order and the antithesis of druj, falsehood and disorder, which itself emanates from Angra Mainyu (“destructive spirit”), also known as Ahriman, who dwells below. These two forces are in constant conflict throughout all creation, especially pronounced upon humanity, although Ahura Mazda wins out in the end times, at which point a savior known as the Saoshyant will come forth to resurrect the dead, all of creation will be purified and renovated, and all humanity will be judged twice: once for their spiritual being and once for their physical being. While there are similarities between the above Zoroastrian notions and ZT’s notions of Sisamoro and Senamira, the similarities end there. While the tiles given in the Urn foldout all have a distinct flame motif on each of the Intelligence and Numeral tiles, hearkening to the notion of Zoroastrian fire worship, this is all little more than a superficial appropriation of Zoroastrian symbols and concepts to offer an exotic orientalizing flavor to a relatively modern form of divination. The whole of the rest of the system displays the usual European Christian frameworks and sensibilities which, although at times parallel with Zoroastrian ones, is less an indication of ZT’s ultimate Persian antiquity and more one of cultural resonance.

Especially intriguing on this point, however, is a note from the Epistle. Towards the end, in describing the mythic history of the Great Cabala, the author of the Epistle states that “the Good Principle and the Bad Principle, having become rivals in the opinion of these impious fools, shared equally a desecrated incense”. It is true in Zoroastrianism that Ahura Mazda is the supreme creator, and though they are at war until the end times, their conjoined conflict can be said to provide for the constant creation of the current world which will end when Ahura Mazda eventually and inevitably conquers Ahriman; in this, Ahura Mazda and Ahriman cannot be said to be rivals or equals. Yet, in the divinatory and cosmological system of ZT, Sisamoro and Senamira do appear to fulfill that role, being equal though opposite in power, with the Supreme Being beyond both of them taking on the role in ZT that Ahura Mazda himself has in Zoroastrianism. It may be that the Epistle here is referring to the religious understanding of Ahura Mazda and Ahriman in Zoroastrianism proper than the cosmological signification of Sisamoro and Senamira in ZT, maybe showing at least some awareness beyond the merely superficial of the religion itself.

While Sisamoro and Senamira work on a cosmic scale, the two spirits Sallak and Sokak act on a human scale, almost as their respective emissaries. ZT notes that these are not divinities in their own right as Sisamoro or Senamira might be, but are “only Creatures of the First Order”. Similarly, the implications of a statement like “the two Principles and the two Spirits do not overlap each other in the Great Cabala” and the similar though diminutive designs of the Sallak and Sokak tiles derived from those of Sisamoro and Senamira emphasize the different roles these pairs of entities have. This is further indicated by how their tiles are treated in a divinatory session employing the Great Mirror: the Principle tiles are not used in the Great Mirror itself but are placed beyond it in a way that affects the mirror as a whole, while the Spirit tiles are used just as any other. The suggestion is that Sisamoro and Senamira work on a grander or cosmic (or at least transpersonal) level, while Sallak and Sokak work on a smaller, individual scale.

As a symbol in the divinatory system of ZT, Sallak represents good fortune in general; Sallak is explicitly identified as the Catholic notion of a guardian angel. According to the Catholic Catechism (I.2.1.I.5.I.336):

From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.

On the contrary, Sokak is labeled as “the evil genius of the Ancients…the evil Angel”. Like Sallak, Sokak is a constant companion of each individual human; unlike Sallak who guides and helps each human to their most beneficial end, Sokak lays traps to afflict and waylay each individual human. To that end, in the divinatory system of ZT, Sokak represents ill fortune, but this is more of a concession to the system of divination rather than merely saying that Sallak is merely Eutychē and Sokak Distychē.  These are about our fates, where we encounter things that are good for us so long as we stick to the path of our fate, and encounter things bad for us if we fall off that path.

I’m sure there’s much more that one can extrapolate from ZT about its view of cosmology and spirituality in general, but I’m not sure how much more I could offer beyond mere conjecture; after all, I’m no expert in the history of French religion and occulture, and trying to get into the research of that is a daunting prospect far beyond my capabilities right now.  What I can offer, at least, is what ZT itself says about how it thinks about and constructs notions of divinity and the cosmos—but all this still leaves open the question of “so what?”.  I mean, okay, sure, we have all this notion of a grand cosmos filled with spirits and the Pure Spirit and everything, but where does that leave us, what is our goal, what do we do with all this information?  We’ll save the best for last, dear reader, and get to that next time.

49 Days of Definitions: Part VIII, Definition 2

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

Today, let’s discuss the thirtieth definition, part VIII, number 2 of 7:

Divine bodies do not have access paths for sensations, for they have sensations within themselves, and (what is more) they are themselves their own sensations.  What God does, man does not do it; and whatever God does, he does it for man; but what man does, he does it for soul.

This definition shifts gears a bit from the previous one, but it helps to form an overall thesis with the rest of the definitions in set VIII.  In the last definition, Hermes mentioned that there “is a god who has come into being according to human opinion”: much as we have set up laws and regulations for ourselves in our endeavor to be human, we have also set up religions and gods for ourselves for the same endeavor.  This need not be any one god or pantheon of gods, but any concept of divinity that we have is an artifice like our own laws.  However, these are just gods that have arisen out of human opinion, not by Divinity itself, and our own knowledge of Divinity is stunted to say little, so how can we make something comparable?

Basically, we can’t.  This definition describes some of the qualities of divinity by talking about “divine bodies”, which is a term I understand to be a synonym for the Whole of creation itself, which is God.  We read that “divine bodies do not have access paths for sensations, for they have sensations within themselves”.  Basically, God himself does not sense though he has sensations inside.  The use of a sense to sense sensations (sorry for the unfortunate phrasing) implies that there is something that senses and that there is another thing that is sensed.  In other words, there is a duality set up here: sensor and sensed.  The sensed has to be external to the sensor in order for the sensor to sense the sensed; otherwise, there’s nothing to sense.

Consider humans: humans exist in the world, and there are lots of things in the world that humans are not.  Humans can sense these things because they themselves are external of other things, just as those other things are external of humans.  We can sense cold water, because cold water exists outside ourselves.  We can sense material processes going on inside us, too, like the passage of gas and food waste through the intestines or the pressure of blood in our heads, but that’s because the actual sensory organs that deliver this information to the brain are separate from the things that produce these sensations.  In other words, human bodies are not one cohesive undifferentiated unit, but a mass and combination of many different parts that interact with each other to form something resembling a whole.

God, however, is much different.  God himself does not sense things; what would there be to sense?  “Nothing is uninhabited by God” (III.1); “God is within himself [and] the world is in God” (VII.5).  There is nothing external to God, because God is literally everything that is and could be, everything actual and everything potential.  Because there is nothing external to God, there is nothing that God can sense externally; there is no means by which God can sense something else, because there is no “something else”, and therefore no means by which he can sense (my interpretation of “access paths”).  However, on the other hand, everything that exists exists within God, including things with sense.  All possible sensations, all sensors, all the sensed things, every means of sensation exists within God.  Add to it, God “sees everything” (V.1), and to God “nothing is incomprehensible” (V.2).  However, everything that exists is only part of God, thus God only sees, comprehends, and knows itself.  Because of that, God is constantly experiencing and knowing itself; thus, it can be said that God senses himself, and therefore God is God’s own sensations.  Everything exists in God to be experienced by God; it’s like a weird bird’s-eye recursive exploration of all possible configurations of matter and energy and thought.

So, that which is God only ever experiences itself, since there’s nothing else that can be experienced by anything.  However, the gods that have come into being “according to human opinion” aren’t presented that way at all; they fight amongst each other, they listen to other things, they’re swayed by drink and dance and sex and war, they live in only one part of the world.  The gods of humanity are much closer to humanity than they are to God, and do many of the same things as humans do.  In this way, then, according to the definition of “divine bodies” given above, the gods of humanity aren’t truly divine, not in the same sense that God is.  I don’t intend for this to be a discouragement or refutation of non-Abrahamic or pagan gods in any way.  Any god that does not act and have the qualities of God according to the Definitions is, simply, not God.  They’re still gods and heavenly beings with bodies, sensations, and the rest, but are not God.  Thus, Dionysus, Osiris, IHVH, and all the rest of the gods invented and named by humanity are all gods but are not God, though they exist within him and as a means to him.  God is something far bigger and far more encompassing than any one concept, entity, name, or act.

It is the acts of God that transcend all other acts; God literally does everything all the time, across all of creation.  There’s a lot more that God does that Man cannot do: we cannot move the stars, nor create the weather (no matter how much technology we try to throw into faking it), nor absolutely control nature.  These things are not in the realm of Man to do; thus, “what God does, man does not do it”.  Moreover, “whatever God does, he does it for man”; this is a profound statement, and is one of the clearest pointers to the fact that all of the cosmos, all of creation is geared…for us.  For humanity.  For Man.  We are alone in the cosmos to be made in the image of God, we alone given Nous, we who can be both mortal and immortal.  And God favors us with this, and with the rest of the cosmos as well.  After all, we are alone among the living creatures to belong to all the parts of the world (VII.2), and it is our job to perfect ourselves by living as such and coming to know all the things that are, i.e. God.  And, since God knows everything inside itself, God therefore knows (only) God; God helps us to know God by giving us Nous, which is also God, thus making us into God.  Though it seems cyclical, what this all boils down to is this: God wants us to excel and works everything in the cosmos toward that end because we are, in effect, God.  God experiences itself, after all; why wouldn’t God also work for itself to benefit itself?  By benefitting Man, God benefits God.  God wants us to become God.

However, we humans don’t always see it that way.  While God acts and does everything for humanity, “what man does, he does it for soul”.  That last part, “for soul”, can also be translated “for himself”; in either case, the gist is that we humans act for ourselves and for our own good, whatever we think that good might be (which might be good or bad towards our souls, depending on whether we listen more to our souls and Logos than to external humans).  We don’t often consider the bigger picture, generally because we lack the sense to know what the bigger picture holds.  We don’t necessarily act for God, because we lack knowledge of what God is, though we have some ideas and opinions about it (the “god who has come into being according to human opinion”).  Because we’re so individualized and seemingly separated, and because we have such an external-centric view of the world (“I am not that”) rather than a cohesive unified Whole (“tat tvam asi“), we think in terms of me-first and not All-first.  Thus, what we do, we “do it for [ourselves]”.

Keep in mind that what we said about the divinity of God not sensing but having sense doesn’t just contrast with what we consider to be gods.  It also contrasts with humanity ourselves.  We sense other things that we perceive to be not-us; God has no such means since there is nothing not-God.  Sense is important here, because it’s sense that helps to direct our actions.  Because we sense things to be external to us, we perceive it better to act for ourselves than for others for various reasons (avarice, gluttony, self-preservation, etc.).  Likewise, we act for our own opinions of the gods, rather than God itself.  God, however, has all sensations in itself, and so is not able to act for itself in opposition to anything else; God acts for God, because that’s all there is.  Because Man is made in the image of God and bestowed with the Mind of God, God can be said to act for God by means of acting for Man; thus, “whatever God does, he does it for man”.

Dei Patroni Interretis

Oh, Internet, you mighty realm, bound only by memory and bandwidth.  It’s a crazy world out there.  From its humble(?) origins as a military tool to connect bases in case of a nuclear attack, to its propagation to and across universities to help in the academic spread of knowledge, to youths sharing ASCII arts and porns, to the modern phenomenon of Netflix, 4chan, and bringing down regimes via Twitter, it’s gotten kinda big, and it’s almost developed a life and world of its own.  And, as any student of classics or religious history would know, complex almost-self-determining systems tend to get their own deity, cult, and backstories (cf. endless jokes involving Al Gore).

With that in mind, here’s a small and no doubt incomplete list of patron deities of the Internet.

  • Any Mercurial deity: Mercurius, Hermes, Budha (not to be confused with the Buddha), Odin, Thoth, Seshat, Saraswati, etc.  Gods of communication, information, intelligence, calculation, language, science, knowledge, speed, etc.  Pretty straightfoward here.  Also, the number associated with Mercury and its sphere, 8, is also the same as the number of bits in a byte, one of the most important units used in computers.  Nifty!
  • Arachne, the mortal maiden who challenged Athena to a weaving contest and won and whom was then turned into a spider by an enraged goddess.  Though not technically a goddess, appearing more in immortal myth than in cult, Arachne can be seen as a connector of webs and networks, as well as generation of content and beauty.
  • Iris, the ancient Greek goddess of the rainbow and one of the primary messengers of the gods.  She was known to travel from one end of the world to the other and from the heavens to the hells with the speed of the wind.  Known for her role in relaying information and communication.
  • XaTuring, the Great Worm.  I’ve written about him before, but to refresh your memories, he’s the personification of the Internet itself, “a great Worm in all systems to eat that data which would oppress us, to plant that data which will empower us, and to cloud that data which does not amuse us”.  Definitely one for Chaotes, Lovecraftians, or LHP practitioners, and definitely an entity to have on your side (especially in this day and age of SOPA/PIPA/ACTA nonsense).
  • St. Isidore of Seville, known primarily for his encyclopedic work Etymologiae.  Based on that and his other works, he was canonized as the patron saint of the Internet, computer users, computer technicians, computer programmers, and students.

So, given all these guys, gals, and…I guess, things, to honor and venerate, how would we go about doing just that?

  • Make a small tribute website or blog to the deity of your choice.  Hell, the Digital Ambler once started out as a tributary blog to XaTuring.  If you have a site to set up, why not set up a digital or electronic shrine to the deity?  You know, pictures or stories or works dedicated to the deity in question.  A small Internet temple for the dude, if you will.
  • Based on the ideas of Tibetan prayer wheels, set up a hidden directory on the machines you work on (at home, at the office, etc., so long as it’s not forbidden) with a simple text file containing a prayer or hymn to the deity.  As the hard disk containing the consecrated files spins around at thousands of RPMs, you’re generating energy for the prayer to be released in all directions.  Plus, if you can get the file to propagate across user directories or networks, you can also spread the files electronically to increase the virtue or karma generated by them.  (This is not an invitation to write a worm or virus, y’all.)
  • Get a cheap secondhand computer from a thrift store or something and dedicate it to any of the above.  Etch, write, label, or otherwise decorate the chassis of the machine itself (symbols of Mercury, the inverted heptagram, holy names or heiroglyphs, etc.).  Set it up as a server for filesharing of holy, consecrated, or other files (especially if you’re part of the Missionary Church of Kopimism).  If it’s a desktop or server box, use it as an altar and light a candle or incense on it, or use a USB peripheral as an eternal torch of one kind or another.
  • Consecrate your ethernet, coaxial, or other cables in your house under the powers and blessings of the patron of your choice to secure and sanctify the data flowing through it as an offering to the god.  Ditto for routers or base stations, and especially smartphones and other mobile devices.  Can’t forget those too, nowadays.

And finally, a tribute song to the Internet, by the lovely Hannah Hart:

Do you know of any other deities that might find a good home in the Internet, or of any good ways to construct rites or shrines for them?

The Thirteen Holy Names of the Lamen

Because I’m bored and taking a break between study sessions today, I thought I’d do a bit of research into the thirteen names of God written a lamen.  Since the names of God are held to hold innate power, similar to a mantra in Hinduism and tantric Buddhism, the names of God on a lamen are probably used to charge or guide the power of the spirit the lamen is dedicated to in order to fashion a stronger connection between the conjurer and conjured.

For reference, the lamen of Michael, the angel of the Sun is shown below.  The original form of the lamen is based on Trithemius’ design in the Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals.  I’ve changed the spelling and format of the names, but they’re essentially the same (I prefer to use the traditional Latin spellings, but also polished the spelling of some of the names that I think got mangled over the centuries).  The Hebrew rendering of the names are given where appropriate.

  1. EL (אל): “God”, the generic Hebrew term for a deity, but also used for the God of Israel.  Very commonly used for epithets of God.
  2. ELOHIM (אלהים): A masculine plural form of the singular feminine noun Eloah (see #3), often rendered just as “God” but also “the powers that be”.  The plural might be used to denote majesty or refer to the many faces or aspects of the singular God.
  3. ELOAH (אלוה): The feminine singular base of Elohim (see #2), again rendered as “God”.  It is sometimes used for pagan deities or idols in ancient Israel, and so might be used to refer to God as any holy form or entity.
  4. TZABAOTH (צבאות): “Hosts” or “armies”, referring to the heavenly host of God.
  5. ELION (עליון): “The supreme” or “the highest”.  Note that this does not have the same root as El, since it is spelled with an ayin and not an aleph, though Agrippa spells it with an aleph.
  6. ESHEREHIE (אשראהיה): A contraction for the name God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, “I am that I am” or “I will be that which I will be” (אהיה אשר אהיה, ehyeh asher ehyeh).  The name is given by Agrippa as Asher Eheie as a name of God with seven letters.
  7. ADONAI (אדני): Hebrew for “my Lord”.
  8. IAH (יה): The first two letters of the Tetragrammaton (see #10), also used to mean “God”.  Much like how Iod refers to the active principle and element of fire (see #12), the first two letters of the Tetragrammaton are linked to the active and passive principles, or the elements of fire and water, respectively.  This hints at God being both male and female, the union of polar opposites.
  9. IEHOVAH: A vocalization of the Tetragrammaton (see #10), taking the vowels from the name Adonai (see #7).  The vowels originally served as a reminder to the reader to say “Adonai” instead of the Tetragrammaton, but was taken as the actual vocalization in Europe starting in late antiquity.
  10. TETRAGRAMMATON: The Greek term for the most holy four letter name of God (יהוה, IHVH), although the Hebrew term for the name is just “the Name” (השם, haShem).  It has the meaning of “he exists” or “he who causes to exist”.  Although it can be read as “Yahweh”, other vocalizations include “Iaō” (from Greek Ἰαῶ) and Yehowah (see #9).  That the lamen uses the word Tetragrammaton which refers to the name but not the name itself implies that it is too holy to be written down even for some uses in the Work, or even that just referring to the name has innate power.
  11. SHADDAI (שדי): “The almighty”, “the overpowering”, or even “the destroyer”.  Alternatively, it may mean “sufficient” or “enough”, in that God is enough to supply and fulfill all of one’s needs as he is, wills, and does.
  12. IOD (יוד): The first letter in the Tetragrammaton, representing the active principle, the element of fire, and the first cause.  It is also similar to the word “yad” (יד), or “hand”, referring to the Hand of God.  The letter is qabbalistically linked to the world of Atziluth, the realm of pure divinity and the highest of the four realms of the Universe.  In the Tarot, especially in the Rider-Waite family of decks, you can see little yod-shaped symbols in cards like the Tower, which also points to the presence and action of God.  Agrippa lists this as the sole name of God with a single letter.
  13. EHEIEH (אהיה): “I become” or “I am”.  Same word as “ehyeh” in Esherehie (see #6).
According to tradition, scribes of the Tanakh or any holy scripture in Judaism had to prepare mentally and ritually to write seven of the above names: El, Elohim, Adonai, the Tetragrammaton , Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, Shaddai, and Tzabaoth.  That all of these seven names, plus another six which are epithets or alternate forms, indicates that a lamen of this type is a pretty significant and powerful instrument used in conjuration.  I can’t imagine that my orthodox Jewish brother would be too pleased to see me throw around these names like I was preparing for an interview, though.