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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!

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