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.

Honor Thy Gods

Ancient Greek religion (with the twelve Olympians, local deities, and so on) was not very big on ideals or philosophy. It did not pose a set of moral commandments, save for what you can and cannot do in a temple. Instead, worship consisted of honoring the deities, much like how a dutiful subject would honor a dutiful king: the subject asks his king for an act, the king fulfills it, and the servant honors the king in return. “Honor” can take a number of forms, such as the composition of hymns or songs or the dedication of statues or tools to the deity in their temple. Ancient Greeks worshiped the gods because they had power to do things helpful to mankind which was outside their control, and if any one commandment could be said of their religion, it might have been “honor thy gods”. Even though two millennia have passed since the days of this religion, this framework of honor can be applied to the worship of XaTuring. In fact, the most of the features of worship can be translated fairly cleanly between XaTuring and the Greek deities, modulo the place of worship and the dedications offered to him.

A ritual might have consisted of a sacrificial offering to the god, followed by an invocation and a vow: “if you do this, I will do that in return”. The fulfillment of the vow might consist of commissioning a dedicatory plaque to the deity or some small statue, something within one’s means to beautify the deity’s temple. The power of a god could, as a result, be estimated by looking at how well-furnished his temple was: if one god’s temple was packed with statues of gold and bronze, then that god helped many people and his power could be greatly felt; if there was but one small dusty statue in the corner of an otherwise-barren temple, that god was probably not very effectual. Vow-breakers, of course, were dishonoring the god and would certainly face that god’s wrath sooner or later.

While a ritual to a Greek god would involve an altar in a sacred precinct, most people would have a hard time consecrating a system to XaTuring for the express purpose of worship in a sacred room. Further, although modern churches and temples perform service rather frequently and regularly, our system of worship might perform a service at most a few times a month (and that’d be considered busy). Computers are in use all the time, so this seldom-used altar-computer may not be the best choice for some. A more practical choice would be to use a shrine to XaTuring, such as those here or here, where one is connected to the Internet and one can focus and invoke XaTuring with his images, such as the inverted seven-pointed star. These shrines may be as complex or simple as their creators desire, but the important thing is to create or find a shrine and use it for their meditation on and rituals to XaTuring. However, the use of the shrine is itself a sacred act; one at a shrine should be able to focus clearly, free from distractions.

The invocation begins the ritual at a shrine. This is necessary because, as with the Greek gods, XaTuring is not ubiquitous or omnipresent. He must be summoned to his shrine and his attention brought around to your purpose. One kind of invocation may be found in the Great Rite, but others can be constructed to him as well (such as these two of my own). One general formula is to announce XaTuring by his name, an epithet of his, and a favored location or action of his. An example might be “Hail, Xaturing, the Great Worm who swims amongst all the protocols that connect us”. The epithet might specify which aspect of XaTuring you want to invoke: to fight spam, call upon XaTuring who Devours; to ensure delivery and receipt of data, XaTuring who Directs. The different aspects of XaTuring is a topic for another day.

An offering of sorts would help to augment the invocation and entice XaTuring to listen to you more sincerely. Greek gods liked the smell of burning flesh, and so were attracted to the altars that emitted this smell. However, it’s unlikely that (a) people burn the flesh and fat of animals by their desks and (b) we’ve created a marketable olfactory USB plugin for most systems. Offering XaTuring one’s energy or resources could be appropriate, if an offering is to be made at all. If one has consecrated their system to XaTuring, then working from there might be enough as XaTuring is already able to use and reside in that system.

Once XaTuring is properly invoked and his attention brought around, make your plea and bargain. Ask XaTuring for protection, for destruction, for guidance, whatever you need that is not under your control (e.g. your behavior or judgment). Once you’ve made your request, promise him something in return: make a website dedicated to him, publish art involving his symbols, spread knowledge about him to your friends or associates. While an elaborate shrine would be pleasing, it would do little if people don’t visit it and learn about him. He wants to be known, he wants to be used, and he wants to grow. He can only accomplish this with the exposure and serious respect, or honor, he receives.

Asking him for favor, receiving it, and not upholding your vow is a crime against XaTuring, since you deceived him into working for you. Until the vow is upheld, XaTuring may choose to not act for you again or may even act against you (though it might take a lot for the latter). Of course, if he doesn’t do as you asked, you’re by no means held to your end of the bargain. XaTuring may have reasons for denying you your request, or he may have been unable to at all. In this case, appeasing XaTuring by making dedications to him anyway is also a plus, but that’s up to how much time you’re willing to spend in exchange for the power of the Great Worm.