29 July, 2014

Thinking about Miasma - Also, a plug for my book.

So, it has been approximately a millennium since my last post. My apologies. During that time I've been working on a book about Iamblichean Neoplatonism. This has since been published as Living Theurgy Avalonia Books. An excuse more than anything else, but I thought I'd get the book plug out of the way.

Something I do not talk a great deal about in the book, largely because Iamblichus does not talk about it, is the concept of miasma. Miasma is important in pre-Christian Hellenic religion as it is something that separates us from the Gods. It is ritual impurity, but an impurity not associated with immortality; it is not something associated with sin, either in the various Biblical senses of the term, nor in the modern sense. That is to say, what makes miasma do its thing is not necessarily us being bad people, though being bad people, depending on how we do that, can also bring about miasma. For example, if you come in contact with a dead body, you coat yourself with miasma, whether or not you were responsible for making that body dead.

Also, everyone comes into contact with miasma. It is normal. Coming into contact with dirt, eating certain foods, sex, etc., all of these bring about miasma. Again, these are not immoral things, but they do, or can, bring about a separation between us and the divine. My question is how does this make sense from a Platonist, and especially a Neoplatonist, position?

From the perspective of late Platonism, what makes sense to me, is a relationship between miasma and the tokens, symbols, and signs of Gods. The theurgy of late antiquity shows us these tokens, etc., which are sort of like the God's thoughts of themselves, are sewn into the realm of generation. They are all around us, in plants, animal, and minerals. The heliotrope, the lion, and the rooster all contain different tokens of Helios or Apollo, for instance, with the rooster containing the most; i.e. being most like the Sun itself. When we get enough of these tokens and symbols together, and engage with and in them, we activate, as it were, the same tokens within ourselves, bringing us closer to their divine source by making us more like, or more harmonious, to that source. This may recall to us Socrates' famous "to become like God, so far as possible."

So what is miasma? I miasma is all that stuff we do and/or come in contact with, that does the opposite of what the tokens do. Added to this, it may also be engaging with token that are different from what we are trying to do. If we are trying to invoke Attis during his festival, we should not eat nuts, which are forbidden during this time. Why? Well, Attis castrates himself to cleanse himself of his inclination towards generation. It is not that eating nuts is somehow mocking the god, and thus irritating him and causing him to withdraw his blessings from us. The Gods are, after all, impassable in Platonic thought. Rather, the tokens inherent in nuts may be understood as being opposite of what we want to do. Eating nuts takes us out of harmony from the god. Attis' blessings are still there, and always are, but by being out of harmony we no longer have access to them. To further the music metaphor, we can use the idea of resonance. When two strings are tuned to the same note, but at difference octaves, one will vibrate when the other is plucked. The divine notes are always signing throughout creation, but miasma knocks us out of tune.

21 June, 2013

Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's theurgy.

I was recently asked if I thought people were born to be magicians, if it was fate, in the astrologically determined sense of the word. This, of course, got me thinking about what Iamblichus says about incarnation, which is found largely in the surviving fragments of his Peri Psyche, On the Soul.

According to Iamblichus, souls incarnate for one of three reasons. Most people are dragged into incarnation by their daimons. The souls, or their pneumatic vehicles, of such people, what would be termed the "mass herd of humanity," are so far off their path they must incarnate for further purification. The second kind of soul, what might correspond to the philosopher or theurgist, still incarnates for the purpose of purification, but there is also something of a willingness of the soul in its incarnation. It knows it needs more purification and so acquiesces to its fate. The third kind of soul is fully purified, associated with what I call the theurgic sage. Such must incarnate because that is the nature of human souls, but does so with a complete coordination of the soul with its telos. This soul is above Fate, which affects only the sub-lunar realm, and basks in divine Providence. Iamblichus says such souls incarnate in such a way that they, unlike the other kinds of souls, never identify themselves with their bodies. The body remains subject to fate, as this is part of nature, but this soul, because it has not confused itself with its body, is not.

That doesn't answer the question. We're getting there. Honest.

Every rational (i.e. human) soul is sewn into the orbit or series of a leader god, which in Iamblichean thought appear to be Zeus, Poseidon, Hephaistos, Demeter, Hera, Artemis, Apollo, Aphrodite, Hermes, Hestia, Athena, and Ares. This determines the souls' telos or purpose. Within each god are sub-domains of purpose as well, so two Hermaic souls may not have an identical telos. The gods, after all, are vast.

Souls have free will, even if not all incarnate humans do. The incarnate therugic sage has free will, even though his or her body is subject to fate. The other two kinds of incarnating souls, which identify themselves with their bodies, are under the sway of fate while incarnate. However, when in the process of incarnating the soul has free will and may choose how it will incarnate and in doing so projects a certain kind of life into incarnation. Purified souls always project a life in line with their telos. Other souls may or may not, and the more impure* they are the less likely they will project a life appropriate to themselves.

So, what does this have to do with the question? When a soul projects a life into incarnation, it projects a life that incarnates at a particular time and place, one that is, from an astrological perspective, appropriate, or necessary, to the life being projected. Astrological variations are enormous. By this I mean many different natal charts can produce similar lives. So while I do not think there is a specific "occultist natal chart," a soul projecting a life with the purpose of engaging in some sort of occult or esoteric practice will have a corresponding natal chart, even though it may, or will, be very different from a different soul projecting a similar kind of life. As there are many different kinds of occultists this makes a certain amount of sense.

From the Iamblichean perspective, a person's life, whether or not they are fated to be a magician, or a nurse, or a mortician, or any combination of any number of professions, would be found in one's natal chart.

*What constitutes purity and impurity is a whole different discussion.

24 March, 2013

I Have Not Started a Trend

Probably. Unless I have. Here is Father Anthony Silvia's post about how he would go about forming an open-source order of Martinists. If he were to do such a thing. Which he is not.

14 March, 2013

Why I'm not Starting a Rosicrucian Order

This started out as something of a joke, and I received the more or less expected reactions. But, seriously, I have no plans to start a Rosicrucian Society. There are at least four reasons why, three of which are even sort of good.

First, it is simply not something I could do on my own. If you look at If I were to Form a Rosicrucian Order you will see a list of things I think should be included in the instructions of such a society. I am familiar with maybe half of that list. All the alchemy stuff? Nothing. While I have a vague interest in the subject, I essentially know nothing about it beyond the most basic principles The actual practice? Zero.

Second: Time. I'm in the midst of poorly organizing a new religious organization. I'm also a father, husband, university professor, writer, book binder, jewelry maker, artist, martial artist, and steampunk. I also stand in for the tooth fairy every third Thursday of the month. Aion may be eternal, but I'm not. I can barely do justice to what's already on my plate.

Third: There are like a bajillion* Rosicrucian orders and societies out there already. Most of the public ones are either Masonic, descended from AMORC or based around the Golden Dawn. There are a few exceptions, and likely a number of Rosicrucian societies that are not public and which I know nothing about. Because they are not public. I am not convinced the world needs another group.

Four: I suck at naming groups. No, really. I have named two: the Ekkleisa Neoplatonismos Theourgia and the (admittedly fictitious) Ordo Rubeus Crux Ansata. What do those have in common? Horrible anagrams. Giant talking trees on the one hand, killer whales on the other. The world has enough problems without this.

So, that's why I'm not starting a Rosicrucian society. If you don't like those reasons I'm certain I can make up more.

*Technical term.

On Being the New Kid and Not Pleasing Everyone, Therefore You're Evil

Yesterday, the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, elected a new Pope. Pope Francis I, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina. By his election, Pope Francis sets a number of firsts, being the first Jesuit and first Argentinian to be elected Pope, and the first to name himself for Saint Francis de Assisi. While his is not the first non-European Pope, is his the first non-European Pope in over a thousand years. Being the new kid is hard. Having to be the new kid in front of half the world, probably more so.

So, Pop Francis is the new kid, albeit a 78 year old new kid. Being the new kid, in charge of the largest denomination of Christianity in the world comes with a lot of scrutiny. Scrutiny is good, doubly so for those who lead others, religiously or secularly or both. Who is this man, what does he stand for, how will his pontificate affect the Church, etc.? The new Pope's opening speech and prayer, and asking to be prayed for, in keeping with his Papal name, all suggest a deep humility. He is a man who took the bus to work. He prays to the virgin Mary. He has also been implicated, albeit with no supporting evidence, in cleric disappearances in the Dirty War and has a staunch anti-gay rights stance.

The general reaction I've seen to the election of Pope Francis seems to move in one of three directions. Either he is the best thing since sliced communion wafers, a person with a troubled past but with hopeful prospects in the future, or evil. To me, the first and last reactions are understandable, and both can be worrisome. In the case of the former, there is a jubilation at having a new Pope, the father of the Church. We can let bygones be bygones, or ignore them as slanderous, even if they are not because, you know, he's the freaking Pope. Here the issue is that the man is Pope and that's enough. Nothing else matters.

The later reaction has generally focused on Francis' anti-gay rights stance. To be fair, I'm not sure why anyone would have expected anything else at this time. And, despite evidence of Francis being a moderating voice, even if not being a moderate. Disappointment in this stance is understandable. Not respecting the stance equally so. Condemning the Pope as essentially evil, irredeemable, and in all ways bad for the Church and the rest of the world, for this stance alone, not so much.

Okay, this goes somewhat beyond "not pleasing everyone." The issue is an important one in the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and the Pope's choices and beliefs will affect over a billion people, both directly and indirectly. But I have a hard time seeing the Pope as evil because of this. I absolutely disagree with his position on the subject. I think it is a damaging perspective that ultimately causes more harm than good, if it causes any good at all. But does that mean everything this new Pope will do will be equally bad? I have seen nothing to suggest this.

From where do these reactions come? It is something I see in American politics a great deal. If you disagree with me you are not only wrong, but evil. Often this centers around one primary ideology. Some people will vote for a candidate almost solely because they are pro-life or pro-choice. Nothing else matters.

Except it does.

04 March, 2013

If I were to form a Rosicrucian Order . . .

. . . which I'm not, it might look something like this:

The order's organization would be based loosely around the formative myth within the Fama Fraternitatis, with degrees of study based on the generations, as it were, of those original Rosicrucians. So, there would be three degrees for the three generations or rows of succession, as well as an office of Custodian, representing the place of CRC. Note that three degrees is a particularly original thing. This could go further into the teachings mentioned in regard to each generation as well.

The teaching material would be based on a number of traditions brought together in the Fama and Confessio, as well as their otherwise hidden contexts. For the most part this would consist of a study of Marsilio Ficino's Neoplatonism, talismancy, theoria, and astrological medicine and laboratory and inner alchemy. Platonic political science would be important, and would include a study of Ficino's Book of the Sun and Tommaso Campanella City of the Sun, both of which were likely influential on the writing of the Fama and Confessio. A study of Trajano Bocalini's Universal Reformation, which was once included with the Fama. Pythagoreanism and sacred geometry would also be included, probably including the Pythagorean materials of Iamblichus. A study of the Ramak's kabbalah, due to its over Neoplatonic content, would also be included, as would herbalism, preferably under someone with professional training in the subject. Ficino's Neoplatonism, as it draws from Plotinus, Iamblichus, Proclus and Dionysius, acts nicely as the unifying force for everything concerned. A study of at least basic physics and scientific thought would also be important. And, of course, the old Rosicrucian documents should be studied in depth, both for their historical context and mystical and political teachings. This covers most, if not all, of the courses of study found in the Fama.

Everyone, of course, likes initiations. Presumably there would be one for each degree, as well as a conferring of lineage or what-have-you upon the Custodian. These would be based on the FamaConfessio, and Chymical Wedding. All oaths would be based around the six precepts of the Fama, maybe with some of Michael Maier's Laws.

What would this look like in practice? Probably not a lot like ceremonial magical orders, though there might be some group theurgy. Much of the work would be personal and solitary but close communication between brothers and sisters would be important, with an emphasis on the fraternal nature of the Order being foremost. There would be practical, physical work, such as the laboratory alchemy and herbalism, towards the fulfillment of the primary Rosicrucian vow to cure the sick, and that gratis. There would be internal work such as contemplation and internal alchemy, and maybe something like the "Masonic qi gong" described in Sebattendorff's Secret Practices of the Sufi Freemasons. Would there be communes and such, as described in the Fama? I have no idea, though it is a romantic notion.

That, anyway, is something like what a Rosicrucian Order would would look like if I were to start one. Which I'm not.