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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Swords and Words - Ancient Means of Power

"Of this sword Moses says, Genesis 3:24: 'So he drove out the man, and he placed at the east end of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the tree of life.' In Revelations 1:16, we; read: 'And out of his mouth went a two-edged sword,' etc. By this sword we are to understand the living word, which was originally inherent in man, and which can only be restored to him by his return to a pure state, and by being cleansed from the blot of sensualism. It is the word of which we read in Hebrews 4:12: 'For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit.'"

This passage appears in The Magic of the Israelites which is included as an introductory portion to _The 6th and 7th Books of Moses_

The first element that stands out to me is the idea that the authority and power for magic is based on a " sword" which is equated to "the Word" of God and that this authority is described as part of the wisdom of Moses.

A much earlier text, _The Sword of Moses_ has a similar image. Yuval Harari says in the intro to his translation:

"[The Sword of Moses] presents a broad assortment of magical practices for accomplishing various goals, all based on the use of a magical ‘sword’ of words, which Moses brought down from heaven."

And also...

"By stating that the four lower princes are appointed over both the ‘sword’ and the Torah, the author of The Sword of Moses aspires, at the very beginning of the book, to link these two corpuses, projecting the halo of the latter over the former."

Not only is the Sword linked to the Torah by putting the rulership of both under the authority of the same angels but the reception of the Sword relates the two...

"The narrative that opens the book further ties the command given to the angels by God to the constitutive event of Moses’ ascent to receive the Torah. According to The Sword of Moses, upon Moses’ return to earth he brought both the Torah and the ‘sword’ down from heaven. This idea echoes the Talmudic tradition about Moses’ ascent on high (bShab. 88b–89a) and manifests explicitly what the rabbis only implied: the ‘gifts’ given to Moses by the angels were actually words, namely, charms by which they could (and still can) be adjured and controlled."

The Sword is situated within the magical tradition stemming from the Merkavah mystics. One of the most important rabbis of that tradition, R. Akiva, gives similar provenance to the Song of Songs, making it co-equal to the Torah, and establishing that the Word of God received at Mt. Sinai included mystical element outside of the Torah. This same mystical tradition also reiterates the concept of gaining secret magical knowledge from ascending to the heavens in many texts. For example the Enoch literature includes descriptions of Enoch returning before becoming the Metatron and writing a book of the secrets he received for the benefit of his sons. In later grimoires in the Solomonic tradition we see this idea again. Paul received the Pauline Art by ascending to Heaven, and in Sefer Razielis Adam is carried up to the heavens to be given knowledge by Raziel.

So in these passages we have information about two elements of magical authority. The first, ascending to Heaven AND returning with knowledge, and the second, the Word of God.

Regarding the Word, our two Mosaic texts seem to be treating the idea differently. In the 6th/7th we see that the Word is inherent within Man whereas in Sword it is an actual series of words and names. So are the two talking about the same thing? In a way, yes.

Genesis 1:27 says:

"So God created mankind in his own image,  in the image of God he created them"

Then, Genesis 2:7 says:

"Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."

The two passages are in different stories, but they relate to one another. In many ancient languages including Hebrew words for things like breath and wind also refer to spirits; in Hebrew specifically Ruakh means breath as well as spirit and the Ruakh HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit or Wisdom, is the piece of God which dwells with man in exile.

Thus the image of God is the divine spirit within his being. This spirit is the word of creation spoken from the mouth of God. God's word is not simply the written Torah but the underlying living Torah, or the creative force that gives form and shape to creation. Man's soul is an expression of this same force. Thus when 6th/7th describes the sword as coming from the mouth it confirms that the sword is the Living Torah, and when it says it is inherent in Man it confirms that it is the divine breath in the soul of Man. The names of God and the angels are descriptions of the processes and forces of creation and thus they are expressions of the same Living Torah. So we have the sword both as the nature and the expression of the indwelling divine.

So again we have the power of the Word and the ascent as components of authority. If the word is inherent, why do we need to ascend to retrieve it?

6th/7th acknowledges the inherent nature of the word but also notes that it was "originally inherent in man, and which can only be restored to him by his return to a pure state, and by being cleansed from the blot of sensualism." So it is present, but it obscured. Sensualism here refers to man's corporeal nature. Sword of Moses addresses this idea through purification rituals as we see in many magical traditions.

If we step outside of a simply grimoiric or Merkavah view and look at Hermetics, NeoPlatonism, and the PGM we might gain some more insight into the ascent.

In the Pymander we discover that Man is essentially the brother of God. Man is a reflection of the form of God. Nature sees the Beauty (Goodness) of Man and molds herself to Man's image and Man, loving his image descends through the Spheres and unites with Nature encasing his spirit in a body. 

So while Man is divine he is encased in a material form, or as 6th/7th says in sensualism. In NeoPlatonism there are points where the Descent of the Spirit which is an extension of the Good into matter is the source of error or of evil. An alternative way of rendering the NeoPlatonic view is that the indescribable nature of the One and the Good expresses itself by creation, and thus within each hypostasis of being is some issuance from the previous hypostasis and therefore carries with it the original essence, but diminished by each act of expression. Each hypostasis is formed by a discursive contemplation in which the Unknowable Inexpressible Completeness explores further and further subdivisions of itself confusing and obscuring the original unity.

The return to that unity is accomplished by ascending back through the hypostases of creation and returning to a state of co-equivalence with the gods. This return is also the means by which the Theurgist attains power. He moves to a state where he has access to the same vantage point and powers as those gods and spirits with in particular state of being to which he has risen.

In NeoPlatonism this is accomplished by a combination of contemplation, developing virtues, and amongst Theurgic Neoplatonists, ritual work. In Hermeticism we see this as initiation through the Seven Spheres and the Sphere of the Fixed Stars.

In the PGM we find an ancient ritual of ascent, which modern scholars call the Mithras Liturgy. The patron of the ceremony is Helios-Mithras. The ceremony is intended to raise the spirit to the heavens of the seven gods (the planets) set about the Pole of heaven. Secret names and words are used to make the magician appear as one who belongs in these realms such that the gods and angels will not chastise him for being there. Having accomplished this he opens a great door and rushes in to achieve the immortality (divine status) he seeks through the ritual.

Here is an excerpt from the text:

" Say all these things with fire and spirit, until completing the first utterance; then, similarly, begin the second, until you complete the (620) seven immortal gods of the world. When you have said these things, you will hear thundering and shaking in the surrounding realm; and you will likewise feel yourself being agitated. Then say again: 'Silence!' (the prayer) Then open your eyes and you will see the doors (625) open and the world of the gods which is within the doors, so that from the pleasure and joy of the sight your spirit runs ahead and ascends. So stand still and at once draw breath from the divine into yourself, while you look intently. Then when (630) your soul is restored, say: 'Come, Lord, ARCHANDARA PHOTAZA PYRIPHOTA ZABYTHIX ETIMENMERO PHORATHEN ERIE PROTHRI PHORATHI.'"

It expresses an operative form of these ideas of ascent found in Hermeticism and NeoPlatonism and it also brings us back to our Mosaic context. The Merkavah ascent likewise carries the soul of the mystic upward, and as he pursues his way through seven encampments of angels he must use secret names and words to appear as if he belongs and keep angels from chastising him. When he presents the right words doors open for him and his soul is drawn forth into the throne room of God, the original unity. In the Mithraic ritual the magician becomes "immortal" or of a divine nature, in NeoPlatonism the Theurgist achieves a status like unto the gods, in the Enoch literature Enoch is transformed, his body being replaced with divine fire, as he becomes like unto the Throne and takes the role of being the divine presence. 

In all these systems the inherent word, the living state of divine authority is retrieved by means of ascent. Thus the combination of ascent and of secret knowledge are the means by which we obtain the sword, which is the expression of that inherent word through the application of divine words and names.

The grimoires don't for the most part address this process. In the Solomonic systems it is more typical to pray for divine presence and authority rather than to ascend to Heaven for a transformative experience. The Sacred Magic as taught by Abraham the Jew involves a transformative experience in establishing the relationship with the Holy Guardian Angel. In the Sacred Magic the angel gives the authority which the grimoires teach the magician to borrow through supplication, but there is still no ascent. In the Merkavah system the Prince of the Presence has a similar function, but he teaches the magician to navigate the heavens in order to ascend.

The Heptameron alludes to ascent in that it presents the names of the heavens but it doesn't address using them. The Heptameron is an early predecessor to the Lemegeton and connects to parts of the Solomon literature, but it also seems to fit within the Raziel tradition, likely being influenced by Sefer Raziel HaMalakh and then in turn influencing Sefer Razielis Liber Salomonis. Both of these texts give the names of the Heavens and also provide the names of angels  residing in those heavens in doing this it is drawing from an earlier text, Sefer Ha-Razim, The Book of Secrets, which is firmly in the Merkavah tradition and is related to the Sword of Moses. With these connections in mind it is reasonable to think that the Heptameron may have drawn on systems that included this ascent.

Currently I am working on retranslating parts of the Heptameron and flushing out a fuller system based on the various things it references and alludes to using other contemporary and related texts. One thing I am exploring in doing so is how the Heptameron system can be used to access the seven heavens and reintroduce the magician's ascent in a grimoiric context.

For another example of ascending through the sphere's in conjunction with grimoiric work Rufus Opus formerly taught a course series on a system of Hermetic Merkavah. While that course is no longer available his book Seven Spheres addresses this sort of initiation in a grimoiric context. Currently the hardcover edition is only available second hand, but I am told a paperback edition is coming.

Now not really germane...but almost since it involves Moses, angels, and God's sword...this song was on loop in my head thought writing this...

I send my scourge, I send my sword, thus saith the Lord!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Git Gud...or...The Wrong Kind of Fool

Magical folk like to associate themselves with wisdom. There is a certain way in which understanding hidden elements of reality and being able to use them to your advantage might be considered wise. An expanded situational awareness and the ability to deftly redirect things that are happening to help your cause might be thought of as being wise too.

But maybe all of that is just a matter of being clever. Not precisely wisdom, but still good.

The fixation on being wise leads to a lot of stuff that isn't magic. Attempts to claim credentials, or to have known certain people or to have read certain books. It leads to a focus on practicing a lot of impractical techniques. Some of these are mystical or are developmental and can help make you a better magician. Some are good for being a more successful person. Some are a waste of time. But we eat them up like a sweet confection made into a smoothie.

They're easy. They make us look good. They aren't something for which success is measurable. And they lead to guru level bragging rights without the stress of failure.

We laud people who memorize philosophical platitudes from JV team occult philosophers and regurgitate them with just the right cadence to make them seem mystical instead of creeperish or dysfunctional. We whack off to memes of quotes from famous renegades even when they really aren't useful statements magically or for life in general.

Because...we have to be wise, so we have to be in on the hidden wisdom. We have to show we GET IT and are part of the club.

Honestly, a lot of this stuff. It can be good. It can be useful.

But we fill our cups with so much of it we forget to actually learn and do magic. We don't immerse ourselves in the powers which will actually make our lives better and at the same time transform us into something better.

Because we're busy. We're busy with being the cool kid in the misfit club. We're busy embracing stuff to tell us how awesome we are in a way that is so fixated on that embrace that we forget to actually make sure we're awesome.

This hurts us because it leads to us no longer being open to learning things. We're convinced that some basic stuff makes us so l33t that we know the score. We don't have to listen anymore, we just have to talk, because the shit coming out of our mouths, or flying off our fingers into the electronic aethyrs of the internet...well that shit is fucking gold.

But it isn't.

We listen to people who don't know shit because we've decided they're cool because they regurgitate the same unexamined poorly sourced mish mash that has become the norm. And then we spoon up more of the same for the next guy.

While all this is happening, we still don't do magic. Because we are busy, we have to take time to gesticulate and gibber so we can catch a good case of the feels. At least 15 minutes a day.

We don't question people or say people are wrong. Because people who don't want to be questioned have told us it's rude. They've told us everything is right. They've told us it's all about how we feel or about what we want.

I'm sorry. Reality doesn't work that way.

If we want to be serious, and take magic seriously, if we want to be successful and real, here is some wisdom. Understand what is true, and use it. Appreciate learning what is false, because it helps you understand what is true. Call people out on their shit, or at least, reject it. Reject your own shit when it turns out it's nonsense, even if you wish it were true. Don't worry about being wise. Embrace being a dumbass who needs to find out everything and who needs to explore and who needs to drink deeply from the well of knowledge because without it you're going to drown in all the goofiness that surrounds you. Don't worry about being the teacher, or being the best, or showing you know the score.

In my own life, the road to successful development has never been about understanding that I know stuff or that I get it. It's always been about finding someone who is bigger and better than me, someone who knows more so I can say "I'm not as far along as him, I need to get there." Or seeing a system and saying "I don't understand that, maybe I'm not ready to now, I need to make sure I get to the point where I do get it."

Know what you don't know.

If you want to git gud. That's how you do it. Inspiration. You can't be inspired to be better if you know you're the best.

Git gud.

It's what you want to do. At least up to whatever point is good for you.

So get your ass handed to you. Read the comments on a thread which answer a question better than your answer does. Question your masters and determine if it makes sense. Reject what makes you feel like you're top dog when you realize it's not more than a feeling. Ask questions so you can listen to the answers, not just to show off how clever you are for asking, or how cool what you're doing must be.

And do magic. Serious magic. With right and wrong answers being part of your worldview.