Practical Gnosis – Hermeticism

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We realize from our study of and, more importantly, our encounter with the figure of Hermes Trismegistus that the most difficult task we have as moderns who wish to pursue a spiritual path is that we cannot simply learn new information and fit it into our pre-existing World View, but we must learn a new World View, a new framework in which to fit the Hermetic knowledge. We are handicapped at every turn by the preconceptions we share of Reality, which are part of the Modern World View. The emphasis on the historical truth of Hermeticism, rather than its spiritual truth is but one trap. The attraction to endlessly “study” the area without actually engaging with the material or practicing the Hermetic arts is another. We do not follow this path because we wish to write a thesis or out of idle or abstract interest. Hermeticism is a means to an end and that end is union with the Divine.

So what is the method? Our first step is to learn and actually practice one or more of the Hermetic arts of astrology, magic and alchemy. At the same time we should study and meditate on the Hermetic philosophy that underlies these arts. We must constantly oscillate between theory and practice.

Practice without theory leaves us blindly following our sources and our limited experience. Practice alone also tempts us to focus on the results of our work, often material, leading us astray with the prospect of wealth, influence and power from our ultimate goal.

Theory without practice is essentially an endless series of mental games. By actually working with the Hermetic arts and obtaining results we can assure ourselves of the efficacy and correspondence to Reality of these arts and the philosophy that underlies them.

 

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In choosing to follow the traditional methods of practicing astrology, magic and alchemy, that is those methods used before 1700, we can do our best to avoid the simplifications typical of “New Age” spirituality and the distortions induced by the Modern World View. We do not accept the traditional Hermetic teachings merely because they are ancient, but because they are true.

As interesting and useful as it is to predict the future with astrology, to summon spirits with magic and to create the philosopher’s stone with alchemy, we find the true value in these arts is the transmutation that their successful mastery causes in our World View. This is not to say that these are purely psychological changes. No, astrology, magic and alchemy most assuredly do work and do causes changes of both a material and spiritual nature. Rather, by observing these changes and recognizing our ability to cause these results, we can know, by experience and for ourselves, that materialism and atheism are false and that the title of agnostic, literally one without knowledge, i.e. the ignorant, is properly bestowed on most moderns.

After having learned this knowledge intellectually, a slow process of assimilation takes place and we begin to internalize and to embody this knowledge. If astrology, magic and alchemy work, it can only be because the Cosmos is indeed one great unified Being bound together by myriad chains of spiritual sympathy and interconnection. Once we truly know this, once we have actually experienced the reality of this, then we have truly begun the process of Hermetic gnosis.

Source:  Sacred Texts

Tarot Attributes on the Tree of Life, by Rev. Marek Bazgrzacki

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The use of the Tarot fitted in nicely with the poem’s themes of the Fisher King and the Grail myths. A.E. Waite, a Grail obsessive, had worked numerous Arthurian figures and symbols into the highly popular 1910 Waite Smith Tarot deck. Along with the grail iconography Waite added aspects of the Christian Cabala and Hebrew Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Rosicrucianism and ancient Egyptian symbology into the deck [11]. This was done as part of a ambitious synthesis of the various occult traditions, a task undertaken by the grandly self-titled Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a group in which A.E. Waite was a key member. The Waite Smith Tarot was the first deck to have the 22 cards of the major arcana and the 4 suits, each of 14 of the minor arcana cards fully illustrated, a companion guidebook The pictorial key to the Tarot was published alongside the deck with full explanations of the cards.

AE-WaiteFrom the mid-nineteenth century onward the 22 cards of the major arcana had become increasingly associated with the concept of pathways and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet within the Kabbalist ‘tree of life’ and ‘by 1890 Kabbalistic teaching was integral to Tarot design’ [12]. As a body of knowledge the Kabbalah has its origins in Hebrew oral tradition, scriptures and Jewish rabbinical writing. Its early history is unclear, but it developed further between the 7th and 18th centuries. Its formative texts include the Zohar and Sefer Yetzirah.  A key point in its development was the writing of Etz Ha-Chaim, “The Tree of Life” by Chaim Vital in the 1590s, based on the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria. The concept of the tree of life entered a variety of Western esoteric traditions, being taken up by the Golden Dawn and their Hermetic Qabalah.

Allusions to the components and structures of the tree of life with its alphabetised pathways and the use of kabbalistic allegory has a long tradition in Jewish and European literature.

Consisting of ten interconnected sefira (plural sefirot), the tree of life is arranged vertically into three columns or pillars: the left hand pillar, the pillar of mercy, representing the principles of benevolence; the right hand pillar, the pillar of severity, power and strict justice; while the central pillar, representing harmony and the ideal balance of mercy and justice, uniting and balancing the two sides. Each of the sefirot has an associated vice and virtue and like a snakes and ladders board, the vices and virtues form gateways and trapdoors between the sefirot.

Though each sefira is as important as the rest, the tree is arranged hierarchically into the four overlapping worlds of the Kabbalah, a ladder from the physical to the metaphysical, a ladder that one may both ascend and descend, a ladder made up of the 22 pathways.

hebrew tarotThe ten sefirot of the tree of life may have had their origins as representations of the metaphysical but they can be used as templates for personality traits, states of mind, or the developmental ages of man and are in some ways similar to Jungian archetypes. These templates are subtler than cartoon stereotypes or the motions of type-cast character actors, coming from a deep tradition influencing literary culture as well folk and pop psychology.

Each of the 22 pathways is associated with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The names of the letters have literal meanings e.g. the word aleph, the name of the Hebrew character ? also has the literal meaning of ‘ox’. Each of the 22 pathways is also associated with one of the 22 Tarot cards of the Major Arcana. In the tarot tradition these have a recognized set of attributes and symbolic and mythic associations and cards will often have links and relationships to other cards in the deck. Though the cards often represent characters they should not be seen solely in those terms, rather they present situations or dilemmas within a plot, situations that the protagonists must overcome, being integral rather than part of a parallel narrative structure. The cards, like panels from a graphic novel are dealt, interpreted and stitched into a storyboard.

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For a detailed reference on each of the Major and Minor Arcana, access our Resources link here.

The Demiurge and the Shadow of Monotheism

Gnosticism. Excerpt taken from “The Battle about God: Where do Gnostics stand?” – Dr. Stephan Hoeller. Illustrated with pictures and text.

* Some Gnostics used the term ‘Demiurge/Demiourgos’ to indicate the creator of the material forms, contrasting the Uncreated Spiritual substance, because they were quite saturated in Platonic philosophy. They adopted the term in their ways of expressing a specific paradigm in which there is a dualism between the created material forms and the Uncreated Spiritual forms. There were other terms used to indicate the creator god, also.

Gnosticism: The Sorrow of Sophia – Lecture by Stephan Hoeller

Where does Humanity’s suffering come from? “Sophia” means Wisdom. Who is Sophia, one of the key figures in Gnostic systems of thought, and how does she relate to the creation of this world, this world’s and humanity’s predicament of sorrow, sadness and suffering, as well as the Redemption of humanity?

Date lecture: 1998 (?)

-Quotes: “Salvation/Redemption from a Gnostic point of view is not the conventional Judeo-Christian concept of Liberation or Salvation from SIN, but rather is the Liberation from a certain condition, a condition of which suffering is an integral part, namely our existential condition of unconscious existence in an unconscious world.. THAT is what the Gnostic wants to be redeemed from….” (Stephan Hoeller)

“To be Good you have to be tuned in to that which is Really Good, because a lot of your assumed Goodness is a device of the ego…” (Stephan Hoeller)

Gnosticism ~ A Discussion (Series)

In 1945 an Egyptian peasant discovered a collection of early Christian scriptures – the Nag Hammadi Codices, which revealed the existence of a Gnostic version of Christianity. Gnostics (derived from the Greek word gnosis – meaning `knowledge’) felt that they could get to know God, and their own soul, going a step beyond faith. Their message, and the words of the `Gnostic Gospels’ were buried in the sand of the Egyptian desert. Some scholars now believe these scriptures to be just as authentic, if not more so, than the books we collectively know as the New Testament.

In the late 12th century `Cathars’ started preaching an alternative form of Christianity to that of Roman Catholicism, in the French region of Languedoc. Empowering abstinence and poverty, they called themselves Good Men, and believed that the world was an alien environment for man’s soul. The Roman Catholic Church tried unsuccessfully to persuade them they were wrong. Then came the Inquisition, followed by the Albigensian Crusade which crushed the rebels with a military campaign. The `heretics’ were burned at the stake by the hundreds, and again Gnosticism was supressed. Brian Blessed plays a Cathar Bishop, and Ian Brooker plays a Spanish Monk, in an attempt to recreate a theological dispute in France, 1206.

Egyptian Gnostics texts came to Florence in 1492. The Gnostic idea, that man has the capacity to rise above his worldly fate to become a spiritual being, even to be `as God’ was the heretical centrepiece of Renaissance philiosophy. This spiritual notion was forced underground by by the Catholic Church’s opposition, and into the world of magic and alchemy. However a modern millionaire, Joost Ritman, is an example of how Gnoticism continues to defy the passage of time, to re-emerge in every spiritual era.

The Gnostic Gospels said that the world was no place for the divine soul of man, that the world was tragic and that it wasn’t created by God, but by a lower life divinity. To the question “Did a good God create a world of pain” they replied that there was a crack in the universe. The first 20th century scholar to read the Gnostics was C.G.Jung – their `Gnosis’, or knowledge, was to him spiritual self-knowledge. In this programme, scholars debate the relevence of the Gnostic `pulse’ for modern man.