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Archive for November, 2009

The Emerald Tablet of Hermes the Thrice-Great

1. True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true.
2. That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of the one thing.
3. And as all things were by contemplation of the One, so all things arose from this one thing by a single act of adaptation.
4. The father thereof is the sun, the mother the moon; the wind carried it in its womb; the earth is the nurse thereof.
5. It is the father of all works of wonder throughout the whole world.
6. The power thereof is perfect, if it be cast on to earth.
7. It will separate the element of earth from that of fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with great sagacity.
8. It doth ascend from earth to heaven; again it doth descend to earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior. Thus thou wilt possess the glory of the brightness of the whole world, and all obscurity will fly far from thee.
9. This thing is the strongest of all powers, the force of all forces, for it overcometh every subtle thing and doth penetrate every solid substance.
10. Thus was this world created.
11. Hence there will be marvellous adaptations achieved, of which the manner is this.
12. For this reason I am called Hermes Trismegistus, because I hold three parts of the wisdom of the world.
13. That which I had to say about the operation of sol is completed.

In praise to God for giving me to understand the Arcanum of which I sought, I pray as Hermes did to the Divine Poimandres (Corpus Hermeticum 1:30-32)

I have come, divinely inspired by the truth. Wherefore, I give praise to God the Father with my whole soul and strength:

Holy is God the Father of all.
Holy is God whose will is accomplished by his own powers.
Holy is God who wills to be known and is known by those that are his own.
Holy art thou who by the Word has united all that is.
Holy art thou of whom all Nature became an image.
Holy art thou whom Nature has not created.
Holy art thou who is stronger than all power.
Holy art thou who art higher than all pre-eiminence.
Holy art thou who suprasses praises.

Receive pure offerings of speech offered to you by inner mind and heart, thou who art unutterable, vast, beyond description, who art spoken of by silence.

I beg you that I may not fall from the knowledge that leads towards our essence, and endow me with vitality; by this grace, I shall enlighten those of the race who are in ignorance, my brothers and your sons. Wherefore, I have faith and I bear witness. I go to life and light. You are blessed, Father. He who is your man wants to share in your holiness, as you have given him all authority.

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A Criticism of Common Approaches to Spirituality

November 14, 2009 7 comments

[Excerpt from an as-yet untitled upcoming book, taken specifically from an exploration of some of the Hermetic/esoteric meanings of the Ten Commandments.]

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Ex 20:17)

A topic of much contemporary interest to the New Age and Neopagan movements is that of cultural appropriation. For instance, are the “neoshamans” and “urban primitives” of our day merely spiritual thieves, or are they rightfully adapting the ideas and method of cultures past and present for their own traditions?

The key to this first question lies in the uncomfortable bravado and indignation with which the issue is usually met by the growing legions of “tribal” tattoo-covered “neoshamans” and studded-black clad “chaos magicians” of the urban landscape. For my part, I must ask: What traditions? If the hungry legions cannot point to true religion as their foundation, a living orthodoxy, they will remain hungry, no matter how many techniques of ritual, vision questing and pseudo-meditation they pry from the hands of their living brethren or lift from the defiled tombs of the holy dead. “Occultism” and “spirituality” have become only the intellectual homes of ghouls dressed in the mishmash of the expensive burial clothes of those from whom they have eaten. And like the ghouls of legend, lore and Hollywood, their hunger never abates.

Dramatic language to be sure, and seemingly harsh when used to describe fellow seekers. Still, my description is unfortunately apt. An entire “system” of sorcery has been built around what I have described above, though using the more picturesque title “paradigmal piracy”. This, a radiative anti-magic practice wherein the sorceror seeks to consciously “paradigm shift” from one religion or spiritual tradition to another and another and another as casually as I change my socks, is only the most extreme example of what Arthur Versluis refers to as the “anti-tradition”. (See The Philosophy of Magic for a brilliant study of this topic written in the 1960s, by a genuine magician watching the dramatic public emergence of the anti-tradition all through our culture.)

Such a condemnation might seem odd, coming, as it does, from a Christian Hermetic who enthusiastically learns from Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu and Pagan sources. Am I not committing theft or fraud as well? Such a question deserves a serious response.

The commandment under our present consideration is one of envy sourced in a great cultural lack in the West (spreading rapidly through the East as well): as Versluis points out, orthodox religion and the arts of mysticism, magic, alchemy and related pursuits have been rent asunder over the course of centuries of spiritual decay. This is not to say that our culture has not made some important forward movement, but that we have lost our soul as a cultural unit. It is only when religion and mysticism (used here to refer to the individual application of religion) are one, or at least when they respect one another fully, that either one of them is healthy. Mysticism is the life-force of religion, while religion give mysticism a body and a context (or matrix). Religion is also important because, contrary to modern occult cant, not everybody is a mystic, magician, priest or shaman by talent or temperament. This point is essential, but only if taken with proper humility: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) These are callings for some just as medicine, engineering, and auto repair are callings for others. “The powerful magician, the artistic genius, the profound thinker, and the radiant mystic certainly merit all these qualifications and perhaps still greater ones, but they do not dazzle God. In the eyes of God they are dear sheep to him; in his consideration of them he desires that they shall never go astray and that they shall have life increasingly and unceasingly.” (Meditations on the Tarot, pg. 39) Make this a theme for contemplation and much occult nonsense, as well as the pride of “human progress”, dissolves.

This dissolution has not reached the same degree in much of the East, and never existed at all in most “primitive” or “tribal” cultures. It is not, therefore, unwise to examine them from the perspective of a Western spiritual seeker. The problem arises when we seek to completely replace our own beautiful traditions, supplanting them with random elements lifted from the traditions of others. The so-called Perennial Philosophy is still alive in the West, as are our religious traditions. They are not dead, or even diseased, but wounded. Therein lies the essence of a healthy approach to exploring the spiritual traditions of others, living or dead.

When a person breaks a limb, even all four limbs and several ribs to boot, we do not leave her to die or, worse, bury her alive. yet, this is precisely what most occultists in the West are trying to do! Similarly, we would never dream of fusing that person’s whole body with the bodies of multiple other injured parties, thinking that so to do would leave us with one whole, healthy individual, but again that is the approach taken by numerous New Age practitioners every day!

Instead, we perform skillful surgery in a few problem areas to remove truly dead tissue and build bridges across the resultant gaps with transplanted or donated tissues, we infuse healthy blood from a willing donor, and we make certain that the healing body takes in proper nutrients in correct proportions to enable it to repair itself (always the best solution when the damage is slight enough to make it viable). A more difficult process, perhaps, and often painful, but if performed ably and with dedication, we have a whole, healthy, vital person in the end, rather than a disease-bearing corpse or a monstrous chimera.

I think that the point is probably plain enough, but for the sake of absolute clarity, let’s examine the metaphor. The spiritual traditions of the West—Hermetism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam*—are vital and alive, with much will for survival and the inner power to thrive. But they are most definitely wounded, each to its own extent and in its own way. In order to rehabilitate them, we must fill in gaps with borrowings from other living traditions. We do this in full awareness, rather than out of semi-conscious envy for the spiritual powers and experiences of others, because we know that our own traditions once held those very same practical methods explicitly, but they have since been wrenched away by the overzealous, or else forgotten by the indifferent. Such is the way of the “march of progress”.

This, though, is the mission of the Hermetist of any religion: recombine orthodoxy with mysticism. This is a task of lifetimes, and it cannot be artificially forced into a religious body or the culture at large, so each must first make this a personal effort. That is, each Hermetic must make this unity of soul and spirit (literally, and in terms of the present discussion) within her own person. In so doing, many philosophies, religions, theological constructs and methodologies will be explored, with bits and pieces being taken along for the ride and fitted back into the holes proper to them. The records of many such recent journeys exist for Christians to learn from and enjoy, such as our anonymous Unknown Friend, as well as Arthur Versluis, Thomas Merton, and Mouni Sadhu, many of which have been invaluable sources of teaching and inspiration for me personally. I hope to add some small measure by way of this present book.

In Hermetic/gnostic terms, then, this final commandment refers first to the full edifice of the religious and spiritual traditions of others (“your neighbor’s house”), and then to the more or less important ideas and practices within them. We shall not unlawfully desire and use them, either to replace our own, or by misguidedly grafting them all together into a harmful mishmash, but shall instead respectfully explore and examine them as humble students and servants, knowing that if we but ask, that which we lack will be given for our everlasting health.

*Others could be named, such as Neoplatonism, Platonism, Orphism, Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, and many more. However, they have all more or less lent their vital force and central fire to one or more of the traditions named above.

Some Notes Toward a Deeper Understanding of the Elements

Just as the title would indicate, this is not a complete essay. These are just some notes I’ve recently taken for my own use, and for use in my current book project. I thought that I’d post them here for the use of anybody else who might be interested in a deeper understanding of, and practice with, the Elements.

Sound—Akasha—Omnidirectional—Original Substance
Sight—Light/Fire—Straight Lines—Willed or directed motion
Touch—Air—Whirling—Neutralized motion
Taste—Water—Balanced—Passive motion
Smell—Earth—Inertia—Halted motion

Akasha through the planes:
Spiritual—Pleroma—Supercelestial Heaven
Mental—Akasha—Celestial realm
Astral—Astral Light—Planetary realm
Physical—Ether—Elemental realm

Descending Action — As in creation
Akasha -> Fire -> Water -> Air -> Earth

Ascending Action — As in spiritual growth
Earth -> Water -> Air -> Fire/Light -> Life/Wood (Taoist)
Consider a tree’s growth: from the Earth it grows first with the direct aid of water, then it breaches soil and partakes of air and light, which all produce Life/Wood. In spiritual growth, Life comes about through the dynamic admixture and action of the four Elements, though the matrix of life (Akasha/Ether) and the spirit which animates it are always present. They take advantage of the Elements and their activities to accomplish the goal of reaching back to the Source.

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Glossary of Terms

I have begun working on an ongoing esoteric, Hermetic and mystical glossary. This is definitely a living document, as I will be adding to and editing it considerably over the course of time.

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