Crossroads and Stairwells

Many magicians in many traditions hold crossroads to be sacred or magical spaces.  Think about it: a crossroads is where several paths meet and intersect each other.  At a crossroads, you’re able to go in any direction, not just along the same path you were taking to get there.  This can be a place of decision or of opportunity; the letter upsilon in Greek (Υ) was known as the “philosopher’s letter”, since it has the form of a fork in the road, which is also represented in the word “dilemma”, literally meaning “two ways to go”.  Hermes and Hekate were known to be deities of the crossroads, especially of four-way or three-way roads (quadrivium or trivium in Latin, respectively).  Exu, Eleggua, Legba, Lucero, Nkuyu, and the like are all African diasporic deities for the same thing.  Crossroads are places of opportunity, being able to go in any direction, but they’re also places of liminality, being between places entirely.  Consider the famous location “Four Corners”, a place where four large states in the US meet at a grand crossroads.  Closer to where I live, there’s a notable (and terrible) place called “Seven Corners” which is a seven-way (!) crossroads.  You can get the gist of where I’m going with this.

But we have lots of other places that can be considered liminal as well.  Anything that is used to transfer or lead us from one place to another without being in any one place itself can be considered a crossroads of sorts, and I had the idea recently that stairwells fulfill this function as well as any intersection of roads or hallways.  After all, in a stairwell, you’re able to go between different floors or levels, able to take one road or another that are superimposed atop each other.  We often consider the world to have four directions, or that we travel only along two axes, but we often neglect to remember that there’s a third dimension we live in as well.  Two roads can occupy the same X and Y coordinates, after all, but they may be going in opposite directions; being on either one, you’d never know about the other, but stairwells and floor interchanges make this possible.

I propose that stairwells can be used as a crossroads in magical practice, with pretty much the same ideas and powers as the usual crossroads would have.  However, the crucial difference is in directionality of the “crossroads”.  In a standard intersection of roads, one can go into any direction on this plane; in a stairwell, one can go onto any plane in the same direction.  It’s an interesting difference to note, and although the purposes for which one may choose to use a stairwell versus a crossroad may be a little different, the idea is the same.

Stairwells have always intrigued me.  Some of the prettiest hotels and office buildings with the most elaborate hallways and baroque elevators have the simplest, barest, most architecturally brutal stairwells I’ve ever seen.  In fact, I’ve always considered the quality of a building’s stairwell to be a mark of craftsmanship; how wide is it, what materials are used, what pipes and wires are exposed, what kind of lighting is present, and the like.  I’ve always had an affinity for these kinds of access structures, the dank and dirty, claustrophobic, gritty, often ignored tunnels and chambers and stairwells that actually set the structure for a building.  All multi-story buildings need stairwells, after all; elevators, escalators, and everything else is mere decoration.  Besides those who want to take the stairs for health, few people ever actually use stairwells except in emergencies and emergency drills.  I’ve always found them subtly exciting, like being in someplace I shouldn’t because nobody else goes there, a kind of pit-of-the-stomach adventurous nervousness, despite their commonality and prevalence, especially when you ascend or descend to a level of the stairwell that you know you don’t or shouldn’t have access to.

Note that I’m not talking about staircases here; while they fulfill the same purpose, staircases are often open, decorated, and part of the public part of a building, and they act more like a hallway between two (and only two) floors.  Escalators do the same thing, for that matter, and when an escalator breaks it devolves into a staircase; no big change there.  But stairwells are different from staircases.  Stairwells are towers within buildings, a small tunnel going vertically up and down that connects all floors of a building to the same room, the same trek; you’re going nowhere when it comes to the cardinal directions, and yet you’re still going somewhere when it comes to the sky and earth.  Throw in the natural spiral, quadrated or not, that stairwells must of necessity have, and you have cycles, patterns, and vortices that connect the different vertically-arranged planes of physical existence.

Elevators, too, are different from stairwells.  Sure, they both have the same purpose of ferrying one from one physical height to another, but there’s another crucial difference: you can’t get stuck in a stairwell, but if you’re stuck in an elevator, heavens help you.  If you’re stuck between floors, you’re SOL until the elevator comes back online or someone tries to yank you out.  You can’t get stuck in a stairwell unless all the exits are blocked off (which is unlikely in most cases), but elevators can stop at any point.  Plus, elevators literally box you in and while they ferry you from one floor to another, they don’t have the same power as crossroads; that’d belong more to the elevator shaft.  It’s like being in a car at a crossroads; yeah, the car can take you through the crossroads in any direction, but the car itself is not the crossroads.

The only problem is that a stairwell in a building is often like having a crossroads on an island: the amount of distance you can travel once you leave is confined.  With the island crossroads, you’re going to have to turn back once you hit the shore, and you’ll eventually hit the same crossroads again.  With the stairwell, you’re going to have to go back down if you went up or vice versa.  Likewise, if there’s only one crossroad on the island, or if there’s only one stairwell in a building, you’re going to be stuck with that one and only place.  Stairwells are symbols of liminality, but they’re constrained by the building they’re in.  However, within that building, the stairwell is golden, just as that one crossroads is golden within that island.  Work with what you got, after all; whether you’re traveling vertically or horizontally, so long as you’re in a place that connects to other places, you’re good to go.

So, the next time you want to work magic in your office building and your building distinctly lacks a four-way intersection of hallways, try heading to the nearest staircase and leaving something in a corner of a platform between floors.

On Mathetic Purification

Put simply, mathesis is theurgy, literally “god-working”.  While this can mean several things, the sense I use it is in the sense of elevating oneself to the level of the gods and beyond to henosis, a mystical union with the Monad, the Source, the Good, the All, God, or whatever you want to call It.  The whole purpose of mathesis is to perfect the self both in body, soul, spirit, and mind, and in that sense it takes mathesis as one would a spoonful of medicine to encourage healing and health.  After all, in Agnosis we are trapped in a disease of ignorance, but it is by Gnosis that we begin the process of healing ourselves.  If we falter in Gnosis, we lapse back into Agnosis, much as one relapses into disease if one forgets to take their medicine or skips their physical therapy or exercise.  It’s hard, but it’s worth the effort.  The purpose of mathesis is seen in many Hermetic or Hermetic-related disciplines from the spiritual alchemy of the Rosicrucians to the theoretical kabbalah of the Jews, and to that end we have plenty of Work to do.

However, in order to engage in the practice of theurgy, we need to prepare ourselves for engaging with the gods and the forces of divinity.  This is no light task; while some people can just easily walk up to a temple and go “sup”, being on that casual level of entering into the presence of the gods is difficult.  Often enough, not only are we trapped in Agnosis, but we’re just simply too dirty to engage in their presence.  The gods, after all, hate miasma and flee it as we’d flee the plague, and we incur miasma in any number of ways.  Christians, similarly, have their notion of sin, which impedes the progress one makes to Christ and inhibits the spiritual medicine of the Eucharist.  In these traditions, as in many others, there’s a process of purification involved to prepare ourselves to walk more properly into the presence of the gods.  In the ancient Hellenic practice, one would lustrate themselves with khernips as well as living in a proper manner of piety as well as making the right sacrifices in the right way; in Christian practice, one would anoint themselves with holy water and holy oil, undergo confession and penance, and carry out good works in addition to partaking in the Eucharist.  Even the low-down dirty ATR I’m involved with has their purification and purging practices which need to be undergone before major initiations, if for nothing else than to prepare the body to receive something Bigger.

There’s a similar role that purification has in mathesis, as well.  During the ritual of initiation, one has to undergo the Mathetic Rule of Observance to help direct the body and mind to live in a proper way, and the ritual itself involves a cathartic freeing of the self from ignorance as well as purifying the scene with lustral water.  Add to it, one should always be spiritually washed before engaging in mathetic practices, hence the role of making and using khernips on a daily basis.  Even though the daily use of khernips helps raise our standards of spiritual hygiene and keeps us there, however, on occasion khernips simply isn’t going to be enough.  After all, sometimes a stain can be gotten rid with a cloth damp with water wiped once or twice, but sometimes it requires lye, bleach, and a lot more effort.  If we want to undergo the process of mathetic theurgy, then we need to make sure we’re in a suitable state at all times, or as often as we can, to engage with the forces of divinity, and if we’re in such a state that khernips itself doesn’t wash away our stains, then we need something stronger.

Thus, mathesis should have a heavy-duty purification ritual, something like a banishing ritual as used by magicians (e.g. the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram/Hexagram) and something like a healing ritual (e.g. the Christian Anointing of the Sick) as used by other religions.  The question is, how would we formulate such a purification ritual?  To have one purify themselves is possible, though it’s preferred to have one already pure to perform the purification.  Since there’s no Matheteion or association of Mathetai set up just yet, a self-purification will have to do for the time being for those of us who want to engage in mathesis.  The idea and reason for a self-purification is the same; much as we call upon Hermes as mystagogue when there’s no initiator into mathesis for a candidate, we need to call upon a god to act as καθαρτης (kathartēs, purifier) for us in the stead of a human priest or purifier.  For that, instead of turning to Hermes, we call upon his half-brother Apollo, the unparalleled god of purification and himself the god of καθαρσις (katharsis, purification or purgation of miasma), which is accomplished through the ritual of καθαρμος (katharmos, the ritual of purification).

The role of Apollo here is pretty much straightforward.  As a solar god, he shines his light and burns away the darkness, dispelling shadows as easily as he does lies; he illuminates and enlightens, not only with his solar chariot or oracles, but even spiritually so, as lies and deceit incur a kind of miasma on ourselves.  Plus, he’s the father of Asklepios, the god of healing and healer of gods, men, souls, and heroes; Asklepios takes care of the physical body, while Apollo takes care of the spiritual self, and both tie in together holistically to ensure a proper life and lifestyle.  Moreover, Apollo concerns himself with the health and well-being of humankind, while Asklepios concerns himself with the health and well-being of individual humans.    However, Apollo is notably connected with katharmos, especially caused by murder, because he himself underwent purification as a result of killing the Python at Delphi before he set up his oracle there and so that he could be pure enough to do so and to purify others as Apollo Katharsios.  The Pythian herself, all her priests, and all her supplicators purified themselves in a similar manner to Apollo, by bathing in a special spring and suffumigation with barley.

One of the more dramatic instances of Apollo’s concern with the well-being of humankind via purification is the role he plays for Orestes in Aeschylus’ triology Oresteia; there, Orestes kills his mother Clytemnestra who had killed his father and her husband Agamemnon who himself had sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia.  Having incurred the miasma of killing his own blood (his own mother!), Orestes is pursued by the Furies to Delphi to be purified by Apollo, who himself had helped Orestes carry out the vendetta-driven matricide so as to finally put the generational curse of Pelops and Tantalus to rest.  By bringing peace back to House Atreides (yes, the same one in Frank Herbert’s Dune, no less, though there’s more drama going on there a few tens of thousands of years after this point in history), Apollo helps not only Orestes but also all of Greece by introducing, with Athena’s help, the jury trial.  A little convoluted, but that’s what you get for involving the Far-Shooter into things.

However, Apollo plays a special part in mathesis for us beyond having a significant mythologic role in Greek paganism.  Apollo, after all, is the half-brother of Hermes, and Hermes’ best friend after they made peace over the whole cow-stealing incident, and the two team up often enough in a godly bromance in many myths and practices.  However, looking at Apollo another way, we find that he’s claimed to be the father of Pythagoras of Samos himself, you know, the dude who founded Pythagoreanism, one of the core traditions that mathesis has.  And, as we all know, Pythagoras had a major spiritual hard-on for purification, issuing lots of vows and rules one should undertake to make sure they’re spiritually and mentally and physically fit enough for engaging in his philosophical and theurgic practices.  My own Mathetic Rule itself is based on his stuff, too, and helps one purify the body and mind slowly.  By calling on Apollo Katharsios in a ritual katharmos, however, we can further engage the purificatory practices of the god and of mathesis.

While I won’t yet release my ritual of mathetic katharmos, the idea is fairly straightforward.  First we undertake the Mathetic Rule of Observance for several days, at least one day but preferably four or ten depending on the level of miasma incurred, along with regular physical therapy or exercise to get the body working again in a proper way.  After this period, we take a special ritual bath; lacking water from the Castalia Spring at Delphi, we use a batch of khernips made especially for this purpose and in a slightly different way from our daily-use khernips, something that packs a powerful purgative and purificatory punch.  After undressing and physically cleaning ourselves off, this special khernips (as icy-cold as one can stand it) is poured over the body while prayers are said to Apollo Katharsios and while a special incense of bay laurel and other herbs and plants is burning to surround oneself.  After air-drying, one dresses in all white and spends some time in contemplation of their actions, especially those that incur miasma; this is sort of a devotional conversation-cum-introspection to dig deep as to why thekatharmos was needed in the first place and how one can live better so as to avoid the cause and need for it again.  Readings of the Delphic Maxims, Golden Verses of Pythagoras, and similar texts can have a calming and directive influence on the mind to inculcate a better life.  Based on the reason for miasma, a special offering might be made to Apollo to act as a type of payment, votary, or personal sacrifice so as to help one overcome the miasma fully both internally and externally.  In this way, we develop a holistic treatment of purification: physical fasting and hygiene, religious cleansing and purgation, and spiritual counseling and guidance.  Having a trained therapist or priest playing the role of kathartes in the stead of Apollo Katharsios would help, especially to offer one a confidential and objective opinion on things, though that’ll have to wait until there’re more trained mathetai to do so.

This katharmos ritual isn’t something to be undertaken lightly, and it operates in a different way than simple lustration with khernips (χερνιμμα, khernimma) or an energetic/spiritual banishing ritual .  Those latter two types of ritual wipe away the spiritual grime we accrue through our day-to-day actions, like dust on a mirror; we can’t help but incur miasma through our daily lives, though we’re naturally in a pure (ish) state that these rituals help us return to time and again.  These simple rituals, as well, can help one in getting rid of harmful or negative spirits that cling on for energy or emotions, and keep them safe from them for a time.  However, katharmos operates on a different level; there are things that make us so impure, so jarred, so off-balance that we can’t easily return to our natural state of purity through the normal means, or we have let our day-to-day minor miasmas congeal into something that dominates our lives and prevents us from taking the steps necessary on our own to help ourselves.  The fasting with the Mathetic Rule helps begin the process of change in the body, the cleaning of the body prepares the soul, the ritual bath purifies the spirit, and the counseling elevates the mind in a holistic manner that gives us a total reset in every level of our body.  The presence and blessing of Apollo Katharsios helps initiate these changes and sees them through, and while I wouldn’t consider this an energetic ritual, the changes made are such that the energies of the body (either in the vague sense of subtle forces or winds or in the sense of processes of change and action) are altered, redirected, and purified to resume working in a proper way.

Of course, by the same token, the katharmos ritual is pretty heavy-duty and not something one could do on a regular basis.  I mean, you could, but generally speaking it’s not needed unless you’re, like, murdering someone every week or your family is having a child every month. Mathetic katharmos is going to be a high-grade thing, several steps above the daily or pre-ritual khernimma.  As of right now, there’s little place for a middle ground between the two.  Either:

  • You’re fit for ritual.
  • You’re not fit yet but can become fit with khernimma.
  • You’re not fit yet and khernimma won’t help without katharmos.

Khernimma is the general cleansing ritual for mathesis, not quite a banishing but accomplishing many of the same goals.  Sprinkling khernips around a room can do the banishing as well as cleanse other people, which in the majority of cases is all that’s needed to ritually prepare a space; however, just as katharmos accomplishes what khernimma cannot, perhaps a heavy-duty banishing or exorcism ritual for a space or place can be called for in the future.  This would perhaps fall under a different god’s jurisdiction, say Ares or Zeus, since it’s less that the area needs to be purified and more that it needs to be emptied of spiritual malignance; the area would be purified just fine if the spirits there would let it happen, but the spirits must be removed first.  Katharmos, then, deals with the person, while khernimma can be used for people and places; perhaps a ritual for εκβολη (ekbolē, throwing out/banishment) could be written in the future for dealing with places or even things.

While Apollo makes sense and is definitely useful in calling upon for katharmos, I’m wondering whether there’s a way or even a reason to mix Hermes into this.  At first glance, that wouldn’t fly; purification is definitely associated with Apollo and Delphi, and Hermes swore an oath to never go near the houses of Apollo.  Then again, we’re not necessarily involving ourselves with making a temple of Apollo, just calling on him for his help, and since our work is heavily influenced and guided by Hermes, he should have some hand in all this.  Although we do find the occasional votive offering given to Hermes in sacrifice for healing or helping one out from a tight spot, the vast majority of votive dedications are nothing related to this, more often connected to gymnastics, wrestling, marketing, and the like.  However, two things come to mind about Hermes that I picked up on from the Hermes/Mercury conference earlier this year: Hermes both gives speech and takes it away (mentioned on day one), and Hermes is the god of banter, cajoling, and “heart-cutting” words (day two).

  • By giving his scepter to someone, Hermes bestows the power to speak; by taking it away, he takes away their ability to speak.  Hermes is the god of both speaking and silence, and has been known to silence or put to sleep any dangers to his travels and exploits so as to preserve himself.  Speech and travel are intimately connected in Hermes, as is knowledge and motive, and we have to experience the same as we travel along the Gnosis Schema.  If we fall off, our journey is stopped and we’d do best to shut up and stop getting ourselves into more trouble; the longer we hold onto that scepter of speech, the more we mislead ourselves, and the more evident it becomes that Hermes needs to take it back so we’re lead back to the path we should go on instead of the one we’ve found ourselves on.
  • Hermes is the god most closely associated with hilarious, vulgar, obscene, and disturbing humor, all falling under the word κερτομον (kertomon, heart-cutting).  While we don’t need to go to the level of Hipponax, such humor points out cruelly and pointedly our flaws, our pretentions, our pride, and anything that makes us hilarious to others as well as to the gods themselves (and seeing a god laugh isn’t usually a sign of benevolent mirth).  Without paying attention to the heckling, groaning, and popcorn-tossing vulgarity of the gods, and especially Hermes, we sometimes get wrapped up in ourselves and either blithely ignore the miasma we’re incurring or puff ourselves up in overmodest wailing of how terrible we are.  We need to lighten up without making light of our situation, and the best way we can do that is by cutting to the heart of the matter and telling it how it is, often with a bit of humor.

To that end, this mathetic katharmos ritual can be done for anyone as a stand-alone ritual as they need it, but mathetai would need another ritual to be done afterward to ensure that they’re brought back spiritually and gnostically to the place they should be at, letting Hermes reorient them to the Path they should be on and keeping them from getting lost any longer.  At that point, the caduceus of speech and gnosis can be spiritually “returned” or renewed back to the mathetes, entrusting them once more with the authority to continue on the Gnosis Schema.  Of course, all this should be coupled with a good dose of hilarity and good-natured poking fun at yourself; the best medicine is laughter, they say, and Hermes can definitely pull that off as the god of heart-cutting wise-cracking and snarky comedy.  In addition to the kathartes who’d carry out the katharmos ritual, there should be someone else there to make sure things don’t get too serious or too out-of-hand with the purgation while, at the same time, pointing out objectively and offensively what it was they did and how easy (perhaps) it is to not fuck up.  By shedding a candid, common light on the situation, Hermes can also help us reorient ourselves through blunt and snarky comments, which helps to bring a bit of realism to our lives and to our situations in general.  After all, every tragedy play in ancient Greece was followed up by a hilarious and crude satyr play to lighten the mood and make sure the audience wouldn’t leave the festival sour and dour.  Likewise, the mathetes shouldn’t leave the ritual without being returned to good health, good life, and good humour; if the mathetes feels worse off or guilty for having needed and undergone katharmos, then the ritual wasn’t worth it or it was done badly.  Hermes Kertomios can help us laugh at ourselves while being cruelly instructive, and can help jeer us back into the Work we need to be doing.

A Mathetic Understanding of Energy

To go along with our daily practices of meditation on the Tetractys, meditation on the letter of the day, daily divination, honoring the gods, and the like, I’ve considered also adding in a daily energy work ritual specifically tuned to mathesis.  I mean, it makes sense for mathetic work to round one out in many ways, especially as one prepares oneself to make the leap from Hypognostes to Gnostes, from simple magician getting acquainted with the forces of the world to a theurgist becoming powerful within and above the world.  I currently use a mish-mash of energy works put together, involving a form of the Qabbalistic Cross, the AL-KT banishing ritual, some PGM stuff, this and that; it’d be nice to have something more coherent that could fit nicer with mathesis, but that got me to thinking: how do we explain energy in mathetic terms, and moreover, what even is spiritual energy?

Energy in its basic scientific definition means a property of objects that can be transferred between them, such as motion, heat, electromagnetic radiation, and the like, but when we start talking about spiritual energy…well, I’ve never really seen a good definition of spiritual energy.  Everyone seems to vaguely know what it is, even though it wasn’t a word we used before two hundred years or so ago; the energy model of magic is a relative infant compared to the spiritual model, and we wouldn’t “charge” a talisman (like a cell phone) so much as we’d “ensoul” it (with a spirit or blessing of a spirit).  We might call those blessings or presence of a spirit a type of energy, but that doesn’t really account for other forms like qi/ki/chi or prana, nor does it reflect the energies of the elements or planets (unless you revert back to the spirit model of magic and consider the energies to be manifestations of the presence of the spirits of those elements and planets).  It gets real confusing real fast.

So, as we often like to do around these parts when we come across definition confusion, let’s go back to our etymological roots.  Energy comes from the Greek ενεργεια, “activity, action, operation”, ultimately from εν+εργον, or “at-work”.  The term was coined by Aristotle, and used in contrast to δυναμις, dynamis.  Dynamis has a variety of meanings, but Aristotle used it to refer to potentiality or power.  Dynamis here refers to the innate ability or tendency of something to change or act, something that is not yet real or accomplished but what could be real or accomplished.  Energeia, on the other hand, is the actual change or work something does when it pulls upon its dynamis; dynamis is anything that can happen, energeia is anything that is currently happening at a given point in time.  Energeia is the process of actualization of dynamis into something that exists, but it is not something that exists on its own.  As energeia emerges from or pulls upon dynamis, we develop what Aristotle called εντεληχια, or “being-at-an-end”, a continuous energeia that completely realizes the complete dynamis to result in a complete being.

So we have three terms we should inspect for a better understanding of energy from its older, original senses:

  • Dynamis, the potency or potential something has to accomplish something
  • Energeia, the realization of something’s potential
  • Entelechia, the full realization of something’s potential which makes something what it is and which is the end result or perfection of something by its realization

One common example Aristotle and others gives is when Aristotle talks about motion, κινησις or kinesis, which is defined as the entelechia of dynamis of something as that something.  Consider a pile of building materials; they all have different potentials, different dynames, and one of those is that they can be built with; that which is buildable is present in the building materials as a dynamis.  The action of building is a kinesis or motion that had been potential or inherent within the building materials, so the energeia of the building materials is putting them into use to build as building materials.  Once the kinesis of building is complete, we have (say) a house, which was inherent in the original building materials as dynamis and is the persistent energeia of the building materials having been actualized into something built.

I think.

Anyway, so how does this all relate to spiritual energy?  Well, I’m not a big fan of the energetic model of magic, where things are accomplished spiritually by means of directing and manipulating subtle energies from one form to another or from one entity to another.  However, I do use a little bit of that idea in my spirit model that forms the basis of much of my understanding and magical theory; the action of a spirit or entity and how it works as an agent is what generally I mean by accomplishing spiritual work.  So, for example, when I consecrate a planetary talisman, I don’t charge it with the energy (in a modern sense) of that planet, as if the planet is some nuclear reactor emanating cosmic radiation that can be harnessed by a wand and some crazy words, which can then be directed like a flashlight or hose to change the energy or motion of other things.  Rather, I call upon the spirit of the planet to take residence within the talisman so that, by using the talisman, I have the spirit within it accomplish work for me.  When I want to make use of the element of Fire for, say, warming myself up, then my model gets a little hazy; I use a certain word and I focus on the element of Fire, and either the power of fire inherent within me comes up as spiritual energy manifesting “hot”, or I call upon the primal spirit of Fire to be present and, by its presence and activity, warm myself.  Ultimately, the end result is the same but the explanatory theory behind it differs in a few ways; whether we call magic the activity of spirits or manipulation of energy doesn’t matter so long as the Work gets done.

So where does that leave us?  Let’s take a high-level look at the Tetractys, first:

Planetary Alchemical Tetractys

At the top, the Source of All, is the Monad, where nothing is actualized, only potential; the Monad is dynamis in its basest, rawest, most vague state, the dynamis of existence itself.  Nothing yet exists; there is neither Creator nor Creature (which is the Dyad), nor is there anything yet to exist.  This is the level before even the Unmoved Mover, because a Mover (energeia) can only exist if there’s something to move.  Thus, energeia is not a property of the Monad; it is a property of the Dyad and, by extension, all the other numbers.  Energeia is that which combines two Monads (individual potentialities) into a Dyad; just as building materials have the buildable as a dynamis but only realize the buildable by the energeia building, individual Monads have greater numbers as a dynamis but only realize them by the energeia of the connection between them.  The other numbers (Dyad, Triad, etc.) may be both energeiai and dynames in their own rights, but only the Monad is pure dynamis.  The other numbers are both potentials in their own right (since any number can be combined with another number as dynames by means of energeia to make a larger number) as well as energies (since they realize the power of the lesser numbers combined).

When we consider the Tetractys as sphairai with odoi between them, we can simplistically consider each sphaira to be a dynamis, and each odos linking the sphairai to be an energeia.  The dynamis, in this instance, is the possibility of the substance of the sphaira becoming something else (a number becoming another by means of addition or subtraction), and the odos the realization of the substance of the sphaira becoming something else (the process of addition or subtraction as applied to the number).  Each sphaira, however, with the exception of the Monad, is already a realization of the other numbers, and so contains within itself an energeia, but when viewed from the outside, each sphaira is “just” a dynamis.  While we are present within a particular sphaira, we explore what the dynamis is of that sphaira, but it’s on the odos that we actually realize the changes between the sphaira and the changes that we ourselves must go through to understand how those dynames can be effected.  The odoi cannot exist on their own; they can only exist as relationships, as processes, between the sphairai.  The Monad is pure dynamis, and the other sphairai may be both dynamis and energeia, but the odoi are pure energeiai.

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths

While that’s all well and good for a theurgic and theoretical understanding of the framework of mathesis, how can this all be applied?  Well, like I said, this is where the difference between magical models becomes moot: whether you consider spiritual work to be accomplished from the activity of spiritual entities or the manipulation of spiritual substance doesn’t matter so long as the work gets done all the same.  However, we know that the Tetractys is the “root and the source of all eternal and eternally flowing creation”, that which “enforms gods and men”; all dynames and all energeiai are present within all of us, as they are within all other things.  However, how we effect the dynames within us as we live our lives is important; some of us never pull upon all our potentials.  That’s the distinction between the Gnosis and Agnosis schemata: by working and living on the Gnosis Schema, we are able to pull upon all our potentials and achieve what we might call our real entelechiai through the energeia of the zodiac, but most of us reside on the Agnosis Schema, where we’re limited to only a subset of the things we do and the things we can do.  It is only by exploring all our potentials that we obtain gnosis and, if we so choose, escape from domination by the forces in the cosmos.

In mathesis, we make use of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, each of which is associated with a particular force: the 12 zodiac signs, seven planets, four elements, and the quintessence of spirit.  Each of these letters is associated with an odos on the Tetractys that links two sphairai together.  Thus, each force is an energeia, a process that transforms or realizes a dynamis within ourselves.  By carefully selecting different energeia, we activate and realize different dynames within us, but in order to choose certain energeia, we have to be able to enact those processes, and without having been initiated into the Gnosis Schema (mathetically or otherwise), we simply don’t know how.  We normally live under the powers of the seven planets, four elements, and spirit; these are the forces we’re caught up in and which we are most familiar because they’re closest to us and have the most bearing on our lives.  It’s the forces of the zodiac, however, that really guide to our entelechiai, but they’re so distant and occluded by the other forces that we aren’t as familiar with them.  In order to access those zodiacal forces, we must first work our way through the elemental and planetary forces, understanding not only how they work but why, so that we can build upon them and ascend to the sphere of the fixed stars and, thus, to the energeia that link all ten of the sphairai of the Tetracts rather than those that link only six.

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_gnosis_paths

Contemplation of the letters, say by our means of daily meditation on the day of the letter, is one way by which we become accustomed to and aligned with the energeia of the letters and the force they represent; by contemplating and harmonizing with the letter and its force, we understand more and more the energeia it represents and what sorts of dynames it pulls upon.  When done regularly and cyclically, one may not need an energy ritual to align oneself with the forces because they’re already doing that by contemplation alone; the process may be made more mystical, such as by the use of chanting or vocalization to make the contemplation more like an invocation, but the result is the same.  However, this is done on a letter-by-letter, force-by-force, energeia-by-energeia basis, and for more complete ritual where one may wish to achieve a balance of forces, we need something more.

If I were to write a mathetic energy work ritual for regular practice, I’d write it so that it could be done in several stages, with different types of letters involved in the process.  If we tie this back into our distinction of Hypognostes/Gnostes practices, then we know that it’s the role of the Hypognostes to study and integrate the forces of the elements and planets to build upward to the zodiac, while it’s the role of the Gnostes to study and integrate the forces of the zodiac based on their footing with the elements and zodiac.  Assuming one keeps up their daily contemplation of the letters of the day, by the time one reaches the status of Gnostes and is initiated into the Gnosis Schema, they’ll have the understanding and ability (though not yet proficiency) in working with all the zodiacal forces, even if they have not yet made the theurgic exploration of those forces on the odoi of the Tetractys.  Thus, the Hypognostic energy work would focus on a maximum of 12 forces (elements and planets), but more likely four (4 elements), five (4 elements + 1 spirit), seven (7 planets), eight (7 + 1), or eleven (4 + 7) up to the maximum of twelve (4 + 7 + 1).  On the other hand, the Gnostic energy work all 24 (elements, planets, spirit, and zodiac).  As the mathetes successively works with more and more forces, they slowly introduce new forces while strengthening the ones the mathetes is already familiar with.

So while all this has been a lovely(?) discourse on my thoughts on what spiritual energy is and how we could/should use it theoretically, I haven’t really touched upon how that might be accomplished in a practical manner.  Like I said, I prefer to think of energy as the action or presence of spiritual entities, so rather than thinking of an energy ritual as channeling or directing specific forces in one’s sphere, it might be preferable to think of it as the invocation of spiritual entities to effect change within one’s sphere or the invocation of spiritual entities already present to induce motion within one’s sphere.  That latter interpretation is interesting, since it aligns with late Neoplatonic theories that the soul (ψυχη) is an energeia within the body that causes motion as it actualizes its own dynamis based on the perception of the body, the reason of the spirit, and the divine contemplation of the mind.  In that light, the notion of energy work takes on a different meaning and purpose in mathesis.  Instead of energy work simply empowering the body or stabilizing it in the forces we work with, mathetic energy work has the goal of familiarizing ourselves with the processes we need to take to obtain gnosis.  It’s a work of spiritual alchemy, preparing ourselves for purification and spiritual development by means of the forces of the cosmos, exercising our soul so that, when faced with the energeia we need to effect, we’ll be prepared to make the changes we need both internally (soul acting within itself) and externally (soul acting within the body).  It’s not about being able to channel certain forces into the world, but to practice the changes and processes those forces present to us.  Some of those forces we already use/effect on a day-to-day basis, perhaps unknowingly, but energy work brings them to the forefront of the mind so that we’re consciously aware of the changes those energeiai make so that, should we need to, we can undergo those processes again at the drop of a hat.

While we moderns are perhaps best accustomed to thinking of spiritual energy as we’d consider electrical current, flowing along certain conduits from an empowering source to charge an appliance, this isn’t perhaps the best way to think of it, especially in terms of theurgy.  Rather, consider that energy is a process of change that allows an inherent potential power within something to be effected and perfected, literally acted-upon and completely-done, so that we refine something into what it should be rather than what it is.  It’s not you simply channeling some vague force from source A to target B and then using B to do work for you; it’s you undergoing the work as well as being at work that transforms something into something better.  That is the goal of energy work; remember, it’s still Work.  In that light, we should consider what ways mathesis can apply Work to effect energy qua ενεργεια.

On the Temple as a Convenience

It’s weird sitting here in this living room, full of clutter and boxes and antiques and the occasional errant Christmas decoration that was never put away two years ago.  We keep saying we’ll get it tidied up, but between me living 200 miles away and my sister busy with being a Tarot-reading poledancing camgirl, we haven’t.  Between a variety of memories, a vague sense of comfortable unease, and several mountains of candy and chocolates that’re amassed in one of the unused rooms, I don’t know whether I prefer or disprefer being here.

I’m staying at my mother’s.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom, and she’s basically the only one I ever actually call and talk to on the phone (and for someone who hates phonecalls, this is notable).  And, add to it, I hardly ever visit the place where I grew up, about 150 miles away as the bird flies.  While growing up with her could oft be a pain, our relationship markedly improved once I moved out for college.  I don’t see her that often anymore, but when I do it’s usually a combination of fun and stressful; she’s still my mother, after all.

This visit I’m paying to her is to help her out after a recent surgery she had, a hip replacement.  This is her second this year; the first one was on one hip, and this is on the other.  She needs someone to chill with and run a few errands during the day while she’s staying at her rehab center, and during the night I’m out wandering playing Ingress or just internetting idly at her place.  It’s not unbearable, though it is odd that it coincides with my birthday week and the Full Moon, and right after Crucible Convention 2014, and that my boyfriend isn’t with me.  I do get to hang with my sister aplenty, too, when she’s able, and I have plans with a few friends from high school and college.  Not too shabby a birthday week, I reckon.

Still, it’s weird.  I’m not one for travel generally, despite my Hermaic nature and despite that I’ve rarely not enjoyed a trip.  What’s probably most weird is that I’m currently away from my home, and with it my temple.  I have a small bedroom at my house set up to act as my temple, shrine, and altar room; the boyfriend and our housemate are okay with this, since they get the even-larger outside shed for their work.  I’m used to spending at least a little time each day in my temple for meditation, contemplation, prayer, jamming with the spirits, making offerings to the gods and saints, and the like.  And this week, I’m cut off by a lengthy distance from all that, and it’s somewhat jarring.  It’s kinda funny how much I’ve gotten used to having a whole temple all to myself within only a few months of living in my (still relatively new) place, and now that I’m without it temporarily how much my spiritual practice has changed and can still yet change.

To be fair, nothing I do strictly requires a temple.  For that matter, nothing I do strictly requires being in any one place; I carry my gods with me in my heart and in my mind, and occasionally in the jewelry that I wear.  All of my tools are relatively compact and can fit in a duffel bag with enough space leftover for a bottle of wine, and if I don’t have my tools with me, I have my own force and prayers to wield as wands and swords.  The statues and shrines I have set up for my gods and spirits are nice to have, but not strictly necessary if I have somewhere outside to pour out wine and water and oil.  I memorize my prayers, formulae, and rituals, and what I haven’t memorized I keep written down in a small journal that can fit in a cargo pants pocket.  If I have a lighter, a box of generic incense, a pack of tealights, a bottle of wine, a bottle of oil, and a bottle of water, I have more than what I need to make my offerings and prayers, and even then most of that isn’t necessary if I have time and a quiet space to pray.

Having a statue to dedicate to a spirit is nice.  Having a shrine to interface with a spirit is nicer.  Having an altar to do Work with spirits is even nicer than that.   Having a room to store shrines, altars, tools, and supplies is pretty damn nice.  Having your head on your shoulders is all you need, though, because without your presence, mindfulness, and mental effort, nothing else matters.  If all you have is a quiet room, or even a public room with a few minutes of quiet and maybe a little bit of privacy, you have all you need to be any level of spiritual, religious, occult, magical, or whatever.

All this is rather clear right now to me.  I used to have a little “shrine” on a bookcase with a few baubles, a mini-sand garden, and plants when I was in middle school and high school, but I never considered it anything special, nor was I doing Work back then (just reading about it with all the fascination of a middle-schooler).  That room has long since been taken over with extra Christmas presents, surplus clothes bought on discount, and giant bags of yarn, and I’m basically living in the living room while my mom’s at rehab.  As far as my spiritual needs are concerned, I have everything I need: a space to sit, time to myself, and all the privacy I could want.  As a bonus, I have a countertop to make offerings on, so even if I can’t pour wine out at my shrines, I can at least do it here.  And yes, I did bring along my carcanets and chaplets as my major tools plus a bottle of Florida water; the heavy work that requires full circles can wait, after all, but even if an emergency happened, I could still manage here just fine.

Even then, say I had nowhere to stay this week.  Say my mother’s house was either metaphorically or literally wrecked to the point where I didn’t even have the couch to sleep on or enough floor space to sit, and I had to live out of my car.  I’d be able to manage just fine, then, too; there’s this little thing called the astral temple, after all.  We all have access to it, and we all have our own astral temple, if not our own astral “country”, our own little space and neighborhood that exists all to ourselves.  Whether you access it in your dreams or through projection of one sort or another, you can get to it all the same.   The rules are a little different on the astral than they are here; there’s no limit to the things you can do, really, so long as you can think and command it so.  Any tool or drink you want, craft it from thought alone; call on any spirit, and they’ll appear before you in any form you ask (if they’re willing); any ambiance or setting you need, snap and the set changes immediately.  The more you work in the astral, the more you can do and the easier it gets to work there.  If all you have is a bed in a shared room to spend time in at night with someone else asleep, if you can slip into your astral temple, you really have pretty much all of magic at your disposal (give or take a few physical actions to ground out the purely-spiritual work).

You don’t often find me talking about astral temples or astral work generally because, generally speaking, I don’t do it.  I have my own temple in the physical world that I (almost always) have access to; what more could I need?  Well, I don’t strictly need a physical temple if I have an astral one, and even then, I don’t strictly need an astral temple, either, if I can pray and work anywhere.  Magicians have gotten by without astral temples far longer than the notion of them has existed.  Even priests and the faithful used to worship anywhere they could, regardless of the regalia or temples or community they might’ve been accustomed to; the real purpose of it all was the things you did as Work.  Even the ancient and huge temples of the Hellenes weren’t the focus of worship, but the tiny, almost insignificant altar just outside to the east.  Temples, devotional art, shrines, processions, tools, and the like all exist to support and facilitate the Work, but they themselves are not the Work.  They’re convenient.  That’s all.  They’re nice to have, but the Work does not require them.

Of course, I am taking this time to get my astral skills back up and running and dust out my astral temple.  I’ve been neglecting my astral presence and environment, after all, and I could do with a good banishing and touching up of the place.  Even if I don’t strictly need a temple space to do my Work and offerings, I am used to it, and even if all I have is a place in my head I can overlay with the place my body’s at, I’m good to go.  I’m used to the convenience of having a temple; it’s nice to be reminded that I don’t need one, and if all my wordy gaudy blinged-out shit isn’t needed, then none of you need it to do the Work, either.  They’re nice, but they’re not needed.

So, if you’re not Working yet, what’s your excuse?