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Transcript of Hermetic Cosmology
Dennis Dutton 19-December-04
AbstractThis paper briefly describes the major cosmologies that influenced the formation of the Hermetic cosmology. It then suggests possible influences of this cosmology on questions of magic versus religion, definitions of soul mates and lifestyles for the best possible outcome on the next life or afterlife.
IntroductionA cosmology is the conceptual framework of an individual, school of thought, or whole culture by means of which the world is understood. Hermetic Magic by Stephen Edred Flowers, Ph.D. When one first begins to study various cosmologies, the usual impression is that it is an interesting intellectual exercise but has little in the way of practical application. Further study shows that knowing what comes after death provides a guideline on how to live life to ensure a better outcome in the next life, after life or next incarnation. It also illustrates the differences between religion and magic which allows us to make an informed decision regarding how much of either that we want to practice. Some cosmologies even describe such hard to define concepts as love and soul mates.
OriginsThe Hermetic Cosmology was heavily influenced in its creation by the cosmologies of the Egyptians, the Pythagoreans, the Gnostics and the Hellenics. To understand the most common version of the Hermetic Cosmology, we must first study these influential origins. A large part of the following descriptions are my own enlightened understanding. In Phaedo, Socrates says only the mind and soul can comprehend that which cannot be experienced through the senses. None of these models can completely explain the related cosmologyfor full understanding you must read the cited sources and grasp the cosmology with your Intellectual Soul.
Egyptian CosmologyThe Egyptian cosmology was based largely on the world around them. The Nile river flowing through Egypt and giving life was associated with the goddess of moisture (Tefnut). The land around Egypt was
divided between the rich fertile land created by the overflowing of the Nile (Black Land or Khemet associated with the god Geb) and that beyond (Red Land associated with the god Set). Those doing
magic are frequently told not to use things that are red meaning dont use that which is foreign. Separating the
Black Land from the Red Land is the Vault of Heaven (goddess Nut) with the air (god Shu) below that. The flat plane of the Black Land (god Geb) is ringed by mountains and among the mountains are two pillars on each side holding up the Vault of Heaven. Below all this is underworld (Duat). Many concepts for other cosmologies originated in the Egyptian but have been filtered through other cultures making it difficult to define a direct correspondence. Some of the more obvious influences are the lack of individuality, the distrust of what is foreign and the direct cooperation with divine spirits. While the practice of compelling the cooperation of underworld spirits did not originate with the Egyptians, the idea that it as possible did originate with them.
Pythagorean and Neo-Platonic CosmologyAs with all of the cosmologies discussed here, Neo-Platonic is a synthesis of various previous philosophies and also varied by location and time period. The main philosophies involved are Stoic, Neo-Platonic and Pythagorean. The Pythagoreans believed in a universe defined by several quaternaries four) (groupings along of the figure
using doubles on the left side and triples on the right side). Example quaternaries include: 1) origin (defined as a point), concept (as defined by straight and curved lines), design
(defined by two dimensional drawings) and form (defined in three dimensional figures); 2) individual, family, community, city; 3) earth in the form of a cube, water in the form of icosahedron, air in the form of an octahedron, fire in the form of a tetrahedron and the divine or unknowable in the form of a dodecahedron; 3) thought, science, opinion, and feelings. The Platonists believed that all things come from the Good (or the One) and the lower levels are mixtures of darkness (or shadows) of the level above. (The only difference between the Stoics and the Platonists is that the Stoics believed everything is rational and explainable, whereas the Platonists believed there will always be an unexplainable portion.) The next level is the Demiurge (or Word) and is the design (or plan) for the physical world of the All Soul. The lowest level is the expression of the design (or physical manifestation). In this cosmos, Love (in example) is the physical manifestation of Loving.
Hellenic CosmologyThe basic form of the Hellenic Cosmology consists of three zones: the Zodiac zone beyond Saturn (realm of the Immortals), the planetary zone (realm of lesser Immortals called daimons) and the terrestrial zone (consisting of the four elements fire, air, water and earth and a fifth element connecting the terrestrial realm to the planetary realm. The seven zones related to the planets and the five elements of the terrestrial zone are reflections of the twelve zones of the Zodiac. (The planes that have been overlaid on the planetary zone are my own addition and will be explained later.) Within the terrestrial zone is the chthonic realms of Tartaros, Hades and Erebos. Tartaros, which is
described in later times as a place for the punishment of the wicked, was originally the location for the
purification of spirits to make them ready for their next incarnation (in the beliefs of the Pythagoreans). Hades is both the name of the ruler of the chthonic realms and the name for the region of the chthonic realms where spirits are judged soon after death to determine what they need to balance their deeds in life so they can be purified and reincarnated. After judgments, the spirits pass on to Tartaros to cause those purifications to come about. Erebos is the region where the purified spirits await the definition of what is to happen in their next incarnation. The goal in this model is to develop the personal daimon to be more like one of the twelve Immortals so that it can pass through the gateway (related to that Immortal) and enter the associated realm. In this model, our patron Immortal is the one that most influences our personal daimon.
Gnostic CosmologyThe form of Gnostic cosmology varies little from the Hellenic and Neo-Platonic. The biggest difference is in the interpretation. The Gnostics believed the physical world is evil and ruled by an evil god. Humans, also created by this evil god, are constantly battling between the lightness of spirit and the darkness of the material. Christ is a being of pure spirit who comes to remind humans of their spiritual nature and lead them back to the light. In their cosmology, the outer portion (The One in the Neo-Platonic model) is divided into four parts: The father and son (connected by love) and the light and dark (connected by life). The inner portion (The Demiurge of the NeoPlatonics) is divided into the Zodiac region and the planetary region. This differs from the
Hellenic in that there is only one gate to redemption (through the garden of Eden) and the two regions are separated by the cosmic snake (Hebrew Leviathan or Hellenic
Ouroboros). The seven regions of the planetary zone are the same as the Hellenic model except in their interpretation: here they are meant to block the soul from reaching redemption. The innermost portion (All-Soul to the Neo-Platonics) consists of the area between the Earth and the Moon inhabited by spiritual beings (daimons, angels, etc.), the physical Earth and the infernal realms of Tartaros and Erebos (inhabited by the spirits of the dead who are called forth in the magical practices of geothia speaking to the undead). Magic, in this model, is used to help the spirit gain knowledge and thus pass through to the upper levels.
Modern CosmologyMy personal cosmology starts with the Hellenic cosmology duplicated on to multiple universes (or incarnations) and connected by the axle of Hades, Tartarus and Erebos. Each of the planetary rings or spheres are associated with the Seven Planes of Existence (as described by Dion Fortune). Similar to the Pythagorean cosmology, magic is accomplished by drawing divine energy down the male side, passing to the female side through intercourse, and returning to the top through the female side. The effects of magic manifest on the plane below where it passes from male to female.
At the Physical Plane, to be male or female is to be physically a man or a woman and mating at this level is sexual intercourse. There are no known effects from magic at this level (such as sexual magic) since there are no lower levels. At the Psychic Plane, to be male is to actively try to achieve your desires and to be female is to accept what you have. To mate at this level is to desire someone and magic at this level affects peoples motivations and causes them to do what is desired without realizing why they are doing it. At the Plane of Emotions, to be male is to express desires and emotions. To be female is to be satisfied with the expression of the desires and emotions of others. To mate is to have sympathy and caring for others or to accept the sympathy and caring of others. Magic at this level effects the next by affecting our passions and our emotional relationships with others. At the Plane of Concrete Mind, to be male is to try to apply what is known and to be female is to try to determine the theories. To mate at this level by sharing interests. Magic at this level causes effects at the next level by changing what we believe we want and need. At the Plane of Abstract Mind, to be male is to use deductive logic (reasoning from the general to the particular) and to be female is to use inductive logic (using the particular to determine the general). Mating at this level is the sharing of knowledge. Magic effects at the next level by teaching us what we dont know and be affecting how and what we remember. At the Plane of Concrete Spirit, the tendency to be an individual is considered male and the tendency to be part of a group is considered to be female. People mate at this level by sharing their spiritual beliefs and are attracted to others with similar beliefs. Magic at this level causes effects on the next level by determining logical cause and effect. At the Plane of Pure Spirit, if two people love each other at this highest of levels, they completely submit themselves and the two become one person. Since the two are one at this level, there is no male and female and there is no attraction or matingthey are simply the same being. This loss of identity frightens some so they vigorously resist developing to this point.
The energy, causing anything to happen using this model, has been referred to by many as life force (or chi by the Orientals). In its natural state, life force originates at the seventh level and travels from each plane to the lower one along the male etheric bodies. When it reaches the level above the one to be effected, it transfers to a female etheric body and travels from each plane to the higher one along the female etheric bodies to complete the circuit at the seventh plane. (It stops at the level above the effected one because each plane is controlled by what happens in the plane above.) Magic is the process of consciously controlling the path of life force energy to achieve specific effects. This makes it possible (but very difficult) for a solitary mage to achieve any dynamic effects since they have to control each of the male etheric bodies to the proper level and have no control of the return path. This same unbalanced condition exists if they try to control the female etheric bodies of the return path without control of the male etheric bodies. In a balanced group of at least two, one person controls the male etheric bodies and another controls the female etheric bodies. Who has control of which body can change at each level, by mating at that level, as long as one person assumes the male role and the other the female role. Ethically, the people involved with each mating should consider the relative development of the etheric bodies at that level. For a highly developed etheric body to mate with a much less developed etheric body is much the same as rape even if it doesn't take place on the physical plane. Groups become more powerful as they get more possibilities to fill each role or the participants gain more control of each level. Once male and female roles are filled at each level, adding more people has little or no effect and may even prove to be a distraction. Without mating at the last level and the completion of the circuit, the world remains unaffected. In example, a person with a highly developed seventh-plane, etheric body would be one with a firm understanding of their spiritual nature and a well defined religious life. If that person never practices their religion, no one else shares those religious beliefs and the highly developed, spiritual person remains completely unknown after death.
ConclusionsMagic versus ReligionIn modern times, the most common opinion of magic is that it is the forcing of a viewpoint onto reality. At least one author, Catherine Bell, is of the opinion that magic differs from religion in that, with magic, a person expects some results but, in the case of religion, a person is merely communicating with divine spirits. With the Pythagorean and Modern views, upper levels affect lower levels as shadows or mirror images. In the Hellenic and the Gnostic views, magic is caused by communication or bargains with divine or spiritual beings. Finally there is Socrates statement regarding the spiritual only being able to be perceived by the soul. This is why magic cannot be scientifically proven since it has no physically measurable effects.
A possible conclusion to put all of this together is that there are two forms of magic. The first is by bargains with spiritual beings. This is easiest when dealing with spirits that have kindred goals and personalities and forcing ones will on spiritual beings very often has unfortunate results. Magic, under this definition, is very much like religious prayers and works well with religion. The second type of magic causes changes in the spiritual planes through images and visualizations. (The drawing of male energies and returning of female energies in the modern viewpoint is actually accomplished through these images and visualizations.) Many times, the purpose of this sort of magic is to develop the divine spirit within each of us so that we can become one with the divine. There are those who believe this is hubris and suggest we are trying to usurp the power of the Immortals. In reality, the Hellenic Immortals do not set the same sort of difficult to achieve goals for their worshipers as do other divinities and are completely able to defend their realms without the help of mortals. (Meaning, if They dont want it to happen, it simply wont work.)
After DeathThe idea of what comes after death gives us guidance on how we should live our life. Socrates, Pythagoras and other ancient philosophers believed that the soul is immortal and it goes from one incarnation to another. There was also some belief that the soul strives to become more and more like its patron or kindred Immortal spirit until it eventually joins with the divine. With this model, we should determine which is our patron Immortal and learn as much as we can about what that means about how we should live our life. Our second goal should be to learn what we can about unfinished business (some times referred to as karma) from our previous incarnations and the incarnations of our ancestors so that we may resolve those issues enabling us to move on.
Love and Soul MatesFrom the above cosmologies, there are at least three concepts of what love is. The first, and the simplest, is the Pythagorean concept that Love is the physical manifestation of loving. This means that we must actively express our love love of another, love of family, love of an Immortal, etc. The second viewpoint expressed by Socrates is based on the concept that when we travel from one incarnation to another we see more or less of what it is to be divine (according to how closely our spirit has come to becoming divine in the last incarnation). When we love someone, we are trying to guide them into becoming more like the vision of the divine we have experienced before. In expressing this type of love, we should carefully choose someone who is already as much like our view of the divine as possible and, more importantly, we should choose someone to love who has the same patron Immortal otherwise, we are trying to force them into a mold that doesnt fit them and they will forever fight us.
The third viewpoint of love is best illustrated by the modern cosmology. In this we strive to love someone who matches us on each level at any specific time (our position on each level changes from time to time and our soul mate is one who best keeps step with our changes). Once we find someone matching us on any of the upper levels, we will seek the same soul in incarnation after incarnation trying to complete the process. Often times, spirits are matched on the lower levels and then cause conflicts when one or both of them cannot match on higher levels. In example, we find someone we are sexually attracted to but then create a separate attachment when they dont fulfill our intellectual needs. To prevent problems, we should recognize this and try to make attachments on as many levels as possible with as few people as possible (ideally, this should be a one-to-one mating).
Works CitedBell, Catherine (1992) Ritual Theory: Ritual Practice. New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press. Flowers, Stephen Edred, Ph.D. (1995) Hermetic Magic. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc. Fortune, Dion (2000) The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc. Guthrie, Kenneth Sylvan (1988) The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Phanes Press. Plato Plato: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Phaedrus. Trans. Harold North Fowler. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.
Pythagorean and Neo-Platonic Cosmology