There’s been some recent controversy in various blogs over the legitimacy of occultism and magic that was mainly fueled by Miguel Conner’s article. His argument, inspired by Alan Moore’s disjointed, caustic and adjective-riddled up-the-ying-yang piece of polemic called “Fossil Angels” is that modern occultism has fallen (or conceived in to be more accurate) into the mire of Dungeons & Dragons (no disrespect to D&D players) kind of phoney baloney. This kind of occultism has fallen into rank mediocrity and bourgeois, narcissistic materialism rather than containing any truly inspired spiritual or artistic vision like say a William Blake painting. Alan Moore defines “true magic” as writing, creating music or painting rather than attending some boring old occult lodge, hearing them drone on and on about nonsense.
Although I certainly agree (for the most part) with his blanket assessment, I do think that “magic” reflects a certain human need to wrap a cordon of mystery and possibility through rituals or gazing into a crystal ball or reading a stack of Tarot cards. Humans are creatures imperiled by their every next breath, with every heart beat closer to death. Humans try to shake a little truth out of their stabs in the dark. ”Magic” which is defined as containing supernatural powers and influence over the forces of nature and the “spirit world” reflects an innate need to control and ”mastery” over one’s destiny in an uncertain, nonsensical and powerless world. The gods have abandoned us long ago to our whims and vices. They have far more important cosmic issues to attend to. They no longer hear prayers and care only to the extent that their mission of planting the seeds of potential consciousness in the soil of the world is long over.
While we do retain consciousness, the mind/body perspective still remains subjective and lacking in autonomy. There is a limit or “veil” that even our spiritual “eye salve” can reach, much like hitting a brick wall. And both modern occultism and (drifting dilettante) new age paths have muddled this spiritual vision to a great degree.
Both the ancient Neoplatonist teacher Plotinus and the author of Allogenes voice a paradoxical proclamation of learned ignorance: ”If you should know him, un–know him” (Allogenes) as per the superlative Unknowable deity, the unconditional reality without form or existence. In essence, if you want to know the transcendent realm, the negation of all preconceptions and though is necessary to gain deeper levels of insight and awareness as opposed through the means of ritual magic, since it is based on form and subjective consciousness. The unmanifest God can only be comprehended by the human mind through either paradox and/or ascent vision mysticism.
“Magic” doesn’t automatically mean “Satanist” or ”evil” (although the Bible certainly seems to think so!), but let’s face it: most if not all forms of “magic” isn’t about communing with God or even attaining self-knowledge. The closest thing to this kind of “high magic” would be theurgy, but even that is up for debate. Magic isn’t a spiritual practice. As one blogger put it, it’s more of a “psychic art” (as in “psyche” or “soul” of the tripartate Gnostic system of substances). It’s about many magician’s own admission of applying one’s will in the material world to produce an effect. It denotes a person with a “will” of “power” and by owning it, you own proper.
According to Aleister Crowley, any willed or intentional act whatsoever is “magick”. He says it quite literally in Book 4: “Every intentional act is a Magical act.” He even gives an example for this:
“It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take “magical weapons”, pen, ink, and paper; I write “incantations”—these sentences—in the “magical language” ie, that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth “spirits”, such as printers, publishers, booksellers and so forth and constrain them to convey my message to those people. The composition and distribution of this book is thus an act of Magick by which I cause Changes to take place in conformity with my Will.”
With that kind of definition, that could mean almost anything. So I took a magical shit? A magical piss? There’s a certain amount of fetishizing behind the word which becomes so malleable that it loses nearly all its meaning. Kind of like the over and sloppily applied word “Gnostic”. Anything that sounds remotely mystical is often erroneously considered “Gnostic”.
The one thing I don’t agree with Conner’s article however is the notion that occultism is dead as the title of his article obviously indicates. Sure it usually takes the form of narcissistic masturbatory egotism. It’s mostly verbose flowery language to describe something that exists beyond the rational and easily explainable. Regardless of what someone may say for or against, the occult groups remain and still do their own thing. Whether they are increasing or decreasing is a whole other debate entirely.
That all being said, I’m not about to dictate what a person should or shouldn’t do. The important part is to take philosophy, religion or even “magic” and make it your own way and not rely on someone else’s style or technique. Discovering your own voice is what really matters in the long run.
And on that note these meme images are pretty kick-ass.
”Every one who has ever built anywhere a “new heaven” first found the power thereto in his own hell.” – Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals.
“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” - Siddhartha Gautama.
”He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.”
“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”
“The pride of the peacock is the glory of God. The lust of the goat is the bounty of God. The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God. The nakedness of woman is the work of God.”
- William Blake, The Proverbs of Hell.
It all fits.
“They are dismantling the sleeping middle class. More and more people are becoming poor. We are their cattle. We are being bred for slavery.” – Some Bearded Fat Guy from They Live!
I recently re-watched the campy cult classic They Live! the other day. In the movie, an unemployed George Nada (Roddy Pipper) travels to Los Angeles during an economic depression, looking for work and happens to stumble upon a small, covert fifth-column type of rebellion and their special made “sunglasses” that lets people “see” the truth past the veil. This “veil” or “signal” rather blinds the human populace to the facade that a world-wide conspiracy (or as conspiracy theorists call “The New World Order”) have propped up through the media moguls and their subliminal propaganda campaigns (Obey, Submit, No Imagination, Conform, Sleep) and control that the Power Elite have embedded into nearly every societal facet (money, politics, advertisements especially, the police, military, religion, etc).
Of course as it turns out, the men behind the “Power Elite” are in fact quite literally zombie/corpse, “formaldehyde-faced” looking aliens that have their tentacled influence throughout society and have lulled the human populace into a comatose and entranced like state of rampant consumerism and materialism. All the while, the world around them crumbles and falls, draining their natural resources until waste and ruin remains. Far-fetched huh? Well, you don’t have to be a super-whiz to see there are strong parallels between the film and current events. Except for maybe the alien part? Maybe.
There’s a great article on Dangerous Minds that explores these same themes. One specific excerpt jumped out at me:
“It’s been quite a scam: the Savior State borrows immense sums from future taxpayers to bribe the current crop of citizenry, and these same citizenry pay the rising interest on that growing debt via their taxes. In other words, the debt-serfs pay for the bribes that keep them complicit.”
Well, that’s if you’re lucky! Do you think that the relatively poor rely upon Jesus Christ’s words about it being harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle? They perhaps feel sorry for the Koch brothers? Misplaced compassion? Paying taxes isn’t all bad and might be better directed to the Power Elite, but of course their servants in the Republican GOP (and Washington in general really) work day and night with utter dedication for this to not happen. All sorts of ham-fisted lunatics and fanatics have taken over the Republican Party (as if they were sane to begin with). Their mantra is quite simple really: cut taxes for the rich, and the poor can eat the last few crumbs falling off the end of rich men’s generosity. The fact that the matter is, corporate America and their Gringotts goblins on Wall Street, are booming. The “trickle-down” economy of course doesn’t actually trickle down, rather it trickles up! Never-mind the fact that the income distribution is so disproportionate, that it’s more accurate to call ourselves a kleptocracy than a democracy, a banana republic rather than a free republic.
That’s how capitalism works, like it or not. It already has named winners, everyone else has to work their butt off for little or nothing. Of course the corporate state isn’t going to hire you, why would they? It’s the LAST thing they have on their minds. Rather, they’re thinking creative ways on how to avoid paying ZERO taxes and raking in more profits. I suppose the archons must have their pets, too.
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24
Of course, Jesus’ proclamation to give to the poor and needy is a complete anathema to the Republican “Family Values” and their slave masters. In fact, the recipe that Jesus gives to commune with the divine is so alien to them and the “American Way” that its any wonder any of them call themselves Christian. I guess Jesus wasn’t very clear with his analogy of the rich man and the camel. If you’re content in being a rich and gluttonous “Randroid” sociopath and let the poor get their reward in the afterlife, you’re going to hang out with Satan and roast in hell for all eternity.
Most people just cower, inside, in fear, and suck up to the Power Elite while their little world and quality of life crumbles, and they are herded like cattle into the primordial swamp. No wonder conservatives revile you as you bow and scrape before them while they’re pissing on you. Remember folks, if you’re going to vote at all, vote contra-Republican. It’s the patriotic thing to do!
Part II. Abraxas
The ancient image of the Mithraic lion-headed serpent is first found at the start of the Christian-era who is sometimes depicted as crowned or surrounded by a halo or streaming rays indicating its inherent solar and magical nature. This image is called a Khnoubis or Chnoubis, carved on old gems and amulets. Hebraic names such as “IAO”, “Adonai”, “Sabaoth” and the Gnostic corruption of “Ialdaboath” are also found on these gems for superstitious purposes. Chnoubis was also synonymous with Abraxas, Ophis and Knuphis. Such names are ascribed to the public, builder-god, the “Demiurge” which is the Greek, Platonic term for “architect”, the “lord” and author of the structure of the material world.
In ancient magical texts such as the Greek Magical Papyri often invoke images of Chnoubis which were used for the purpose of warding off malevolent demonic influence as well as stomach aches by knowing and memorizing many different names of spirits in life and after death in efforts to banish them and overcome the cosmic rulers that guard each succeeding realm of the “astral realm”. The Greek Magical Papyri also provides the means to summoning of demons for various anti-social purposes of the magician (such as making thievery invisible, sending dreams, winning favors in both men and women, inflaming lust in the person of desire, killing, etc.) Abraxas was also known as the king of demons, a title similar to gods of other cultures such as Shiva of Hinduism. In the Dictionnaire Infernal (Demonographia), Abraxas was spelled “Abracas” as one of the many demons for the purpose of invocation similar to the usage ascribed in the Greek Magical Papyri.
In many Gnostic texts, the Demiurge was also associated with the element of fire, besides bearing many Chimeric qualities as the Apocryphon of John indicates:
And when she saw (the consequences of) her desire, it changed into a form of a lion-faced serpent. And its eyes were like lightning fires which flash. She cast it away from her, outside that place, that no one of the immortal ones might see it, for she had created it in ignorance.
In the Pistis Sophia, the Demiurge isn’t at all by any means a handsome fellow as he’s depicted as a fiery yet dark lion-faced demon, residing within the Dante’s Inferno-like chaotic underworld of Hades where he and his forty-nine demons tortures the wicked souls who end up in such a horrible place in boiling rivers of pitch-black darkness. In the Gospel of Judas, “Nebro” (meaning rebel angel) Yaldaboath’s henchman and himself also dwell in Hades or hell as one of the twelve angels to come “into being [to] rule over chaos and the [underworld]”. He comes from heaven, his “face flashed with fire and whose appearance was defiled with blood”.
The mythological Chimera found in the Homer’s Illiad was also described with similar features:
…a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire.
The Gnostics had taken biblical theology into new, previously unknown territory by merging it with Platonic thought. Yet after this infusion, neither biblical theology or Platonic thought looked the same after. Plato had his benevolent Demiurge, a creator god from Timaeus. This Demiurge worked hard to create the best possible world as a reflection of the the Ideal realm. For Plato, matter is neither inherently good nor evil. It remains neutral. Matter in Timaeus is originally featureless and passive like the darkened, still waters of an isolated pond. It’s primeval and existent even before the four basic elements. Receptive matter is considered to be the “mother” while the “father” Demiurge becomes the active agent to mold it after the image of eternity as an imitation. The world he created was the best that could be given the fact that it was a reflection of the higher world in the realm of matter. The soul can work to be freed from matter by pious living, and upon death, ascend back to the Good.
The Sethian Gnostics on the other hand conceived the world as wholly disastrous and shitty by a retarded and spiritually blind creator, called Ialdaboath. The Gnostics’ obessesion with theodicy or the problem of evil and its source became reflected on their myths. Like many Jewish thinkers of their time, the Gnostics posited a hierarchical duality between the Supreme God and the demuirgical angel. Yet their identification of the Demiurge with Satan become a much more radical and even “misotheistic” (hatred of the gods or the belief that god or the gods aren’t good but are in fact malevolent, bent on making the lives of their creation as miserable as possible) interpretation of the creator god. This malevolent demon-king was the warring, belligerent opponent to the Pleroma, the higher collective realm of the spiritual “aeons”. Because he was the one who created the world, it is a world of suffering and imprisonment. The Sethians had linked the story of Satan’s fall from Paradise with the Demiurge.
Ialdabaoth in Gnostic literature was the aborted and accidental birth of Sophia, creator of the sensible cosmos and was eventually relegated as the blasted lion-faced fuck writhing within the bowels of Tartarus. The only hope for freedom of the soul is for a redeemer to come and instruct it how to get out of the cycle of imprisonment that contains it through Ialdabaoth’s rule and destroy Ialdabaoth’s army of angels and demons by the means of spying, even shape-shifting into their bestial forms and destroying their yoke over the slave race of mankind. The Savior was essentially a betraying double-agent to the archons. No amount of righteous living is going to free the soul from the clutches of the Demiurge. Only a savior angel or “Illuminator” more powerful than the malicious Ialdabaoth could liberate the soul from the iron shackles of the cosmos.
This is completely different to Plato’s myth. The archons are of course, the fallen or jealous angels who are battling the forces of the Stranger God and its emanated revealer who seek to reveal the fruit of gnosis to mankind which is held in captivity by the “god of the aion”. The daimons or demons are another inferior and subordinate class (to the gods) of malicious creatures created from a different substance than the angels. According to Irenaeus, the Gnostics taught that angels and demons (including the Devil) were crystallized from the tears of the fallen Sophia:
They further teach that the spirits of wickedness derived their origin from grief. Hence the devil, whom they also call Cosmocrator (the ruler of the world), and the demons, and the angels, and every wicked spiritual being that exists, found the source of their existence. They represent the Demiurge as being the son of that mother of theirs (Achamoth), and Cosmocrator as the creature of the Demiurge. Cosmocrator has knowledge of what is above himself, because he is a spirit of wickedness; but the Demiurge is ignorant of such things, inasmuch as he is merely animal. Their mother dwells in that place which is above the heavens, that is, in the intermediate abode; the Demiurge in the heavenly place, that is, in the hebdomad; but the Cosmocrator in this our world. The corporeal elements of the world, again, sprang, as we before remarked, from bewilderment and perplexity, as from a more ignoble source. Thus the earth arose from her state of stupor; water from the agitation caused by her fear; air from the consolidation of her grief; while fire, producing death and corruption, was inherent in all these elements, even as they teach that ignorance also lay concealed in these three passions.
Similarly, in the the little known text called The Paraphrase of Shem, reveals a mythology featuring a “cosmic” Womb which gives births to the cosmos, including both angels and demons. The text is very erotic, with sexual images everywhere, used to explain how this cosmos came into being:
And in order that the demons also might become free from the power which they possessed through the impure intercourse, a womb was with the winds resembling water. And an unclean penis was with the demons in accordance with the example of the Darkness, and in the way he rubbed with the womb from the beginning. And after the forms of Nature had been together, they separated from each other. They cast off the power, being astonished about the deceit which had happened to them. They grieved with an eternal grief. They covered themselves with their power.
A good example of this is the Paraphrase of Shem, which is one of the few extant gnostic treatises which contains a three-principled system of origins as opposed to one. The author likens the cosmic catastrophe to sex. Perhaps the author didn’t like sex very much. Some Gnostic groups held to three originating cosmic principles, rather than one or two. Shem is a text from one such group. The author of Shem hypothesizes three different principles: light, darkness, and spirit.
There was Light and Darkness and there was Spirit between them. Since your root fell into forgetfulness – he who was the unbegotten Spirit – I reveal to you the truth about the powers. The Light was thought full of hearing and word. They were united into one form. And the Darkness was wind in waters. He possessed the mind wrapped in a chaotic fire. And the Spirit between them was a gentle, humble light. These are the three roots. They reigned each in themselves, alone. And they covered each other, each one with its power.
Most other groups such as the Manicheans and Marcionites held a two-principled system: light and darkness, good and evil. The rooster-headed Anguepede (chimera) under his name Abraxas was also considered to be a combination of the seven planetary powers that consists of the archons discussed earlier. Abraxas and Chnoubis were also considered to be roughly equivalent to the Agathodaimon, the “good spirit” of fortune and health by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. They were often represented as serpents.
Abraxas, according to Gnostic myth, was a redeemed archon who rose above the Hebdomad to rule over it as an intercessionary figure between the Pleroma and the world of matter. Abraxas became a figure of veneration for many Gnostics such as those who followed Basilides. This astral god was feared by the ancient people because he controlled the universe. He ruled it and our fates. He usually has a leonine head or a cock-head, solar rays, and also serpentine form as both forms are interchangeable for Abraxas. Abraxas was however, often depicted as a bizarre mixture of man and beast, with the rooster’s head representing the dawn of understanding (roosters of course being the animal that traditionally greets the dawn) and a sense of vigilant wakefulness; the body of a man represents the embodied logos, the human capacity for understanding and growth; the snakes represent prudence and energy; while the whip and shield symbolize the dynamism of the life force and wisdom (the great protector) respectively.
This fierce and terrifying astral lord goes by many other names as well. Some Gnostics equated Abraxas with Ialdabaoth, Saklas, Samael, Nebruel, Michael, Elieli, and Judas. He was also equated with IAO, Chnoubis, Abrasax, etc. Abraxas appears in only a few instances throughout the Nag Hammadi codices in such Sethian texts such as The Great Book of the Invisible Spirit, The Apocalypse of Adam, and Zostrianos as basically a minor Aeon or angel that works in tandem with Sophia and the “four spiritual lights” to rectify the error brought on the rise of the “deficiency” in the fetters of the material. Abraxas was also interchangeable with the deity-archon Sabaoth (meaning host), which according to the Gnostic mythology presented in On the Origin of the World was the son and offspring of Yaldaboath who would eventually rebel against his father in a great war, repent of his “sins”, and side with his grandmother, Sophia-Achamoth. The archon would be elevated “above the seventh heaven” or the “Ogdoad” and enthroned, surrounded by ministering angels and Cherubim within a mansion that is “huge, magnificent, seven times as great as all those that exist in the seven heavens.”
According to Ireneaus in his work detailing his indictment against varies heretical schools of thought, Against Heresies, he lays out Basilides’ (possibly the inventor of Abraxas) system of thought pertaining to Abraxas’ domain:
They hold that their chief is Abraxas; and, on this account, that word contains in itself the numbers amounting to three hundred and sixty-five.” Abraxas or Abrasax becomes a de facto ruler of the “364 kingdoms of spirits (plus himself)” due to the fact that his name has a high numerical value that equals to 365, the number of days in the year.
G.R.S. Mead in Thrice-Great Hermes discusses the possible connection of Abrasax or Abraxas to the celestial spheres of the cosmic rulers of fate:
The name Abraxas, which consisted of seven elements or letters, was a mystery-designation of the God who combined in himself the whole power of the Seven Planets, and also of the Year of 365 days, the sum of the number-values of the letters of Abraxas working out to 365. This mysterious Being was the “Year”; but the Year as the Eternity, also conceived of in a spatial aspect, as the Spirit or Name that extends from Heaven to Earth, the God who pervades and full-fills the Seven Spheres, and the Three Hundred and Sixty-five Zones, the Inner God, “He who has His seat within the Seven Poles—ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ,” as the Papyri have it, and also without them, as we shall see. (402)
Tertullian in Against All Heresies also discusses Abraxas in the account of Basilides’ system as his chief deity:
Basilides affirms that there is a supreme Deity, by name Abraxas, by whom was created Mind, which in Greek he calls Nous; that thence sprang the Word; that of Him issued Providence, Virtue, and Wisdom; that out of these subsequently were made Principalities, powers, and Angels; that there ensued infinite issues and processions of angels; that by these angels 365 heavens were formed, and the world, in honour of Abraxas, whose name, if computed, has in itself this number. Now, among the last of the angels, those who made this world, he places the God of the Jews latest, that is, the God of the Law and of the Prophets, whom he denies to be a God, but affirms to be an angel. To him, he says, was allotted the seed of Abraham, and accordingly he it was who transferred the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt into the land of Canaan; affirming him to be turbulent above the other angels, and accordingly given to the frequent arousing of seditions and wars, yes, and the shedding of human blood. Christ, moreover, he affirms to have been sent, not by this maker of the world, but by the above-named Abraxas; and to have come in a phantasm, and been destitute of the substance of flesh: that it was not He who suffered among the Jews, but that Simon was crucified in His stead: whence, again, there must be no believing on him who was crucified, lest one confess to having believed on Simon. Martyrdoms, he says, are not to be endured. The resurrection of the flesh he strenuously impugns, affirming that salvation has not been promised to bodies.
It’s almost as if Basilides becomes a worshiper of a Demiurgical figure — that being Abraxas. There is much speculation about the etymology concerning Abraxas which vary from meaning “holy word” or “blessed name”, although it still remains cloudy at best. It is also suggested that Abraxas is derivative of the Arimaic magical word “Abracadabra” meaning “I create as I speak”. Like Baphomet, Abraxas seems to be a concoction of different mythological symbols such as the two Indian cobras for his legs as represented in the above depiction.
Irenaeus, in describing the followers of Basilides, claimed in Against Heresies:
These men, moreover, practice magic; and use images, incantations, invocations, and every other kind of curious art. Coining also certain names as if they were those of the angels, they proclaim some of these as belonging to the first, and others to the second heaven; and then they strive to set forth the names, principles, angels, and powers of the three hundred and sixty-five imagined heavens. They also affirm that the barbarous name in which the Saviour ascended and descended, is Caulacau.
Plotinus, the father of Neo-Platonism also maintained similar descriptions of the Gnostics as “magicians” and “sorcerers” by using the barbarous names of the Ineffable in his polemic in the Ennead 2.9, Against the Gnostics: Against Those That Affirm the Creator of the Cosmos and the Cosmos Itself to Be Evil:
In the sacred formulas they inscribe, purporting to address the Supernal Beings — not merely the Soul but even the Transcendents — they are simply uttering spells and appeasements and evocations in the idea that these Powers will obey a call and be led about by a word from any of us who is in some degree trained to use the appropriate forms in the appropriate way — certain melodies, certain sounds, specially directed breathings, sibilant cries, and all else to which is ascribed magic potency upon the Supreme. Perhaps they would repudiate any such intention: still they must explain how these things act upon the unembodied: they do not see that the power they attribute to their own words is so much taken away from the majesty of the divine.
Plotinus resented the Gnostics’ demonization of Plato’s Demiurge, the creator of the material cosmos. Plotinus believed the Gnostics had corrupted the original teachings of Plato to suit their world-views. In fact, Plotinus goes as far as to mock the Gnostic creation story of the fall of Sophia and the aborted Demiurge as surpassing “sheer folly.” Plotinus also took issue with the Gnostic’s neglect on their pursuit of virtue, maintaining themselves as beyond reproach of the laws of the world which were extrapolated and fueled by hypothetical rumors of their supposed hedonistic and libertine tendencies.
For they manufacture these doctrines as though they were not in contact with the ancient thought of the Greeks; for the Greeks knew, and spoke clearly without pomposity, of ascents from the cave, coming closer and closer by gradual stages to a truer vision.
This was a problem for Plotinus, who thought these Platonizing Sethians or Gnostics were mucking-up his philosophical circles with their static dualism, world-hatred, and defamation of the creator. Plotinus pretty much caricatures the Sethians as rubes for practicing magic. Needless to say, Neoplatonists didn’t like Gnostics very much. The Sethian Gnostics themselves weren’t a unified movement, but rather a diverse set of small cult communities — like the Borborites, Archontics, Ophites, etc. According to the Apocryphon of John, it says that everyone will have the opportunity to be saved, so that could mean that one essentially becomes part of the seed of Seth by undergoing Sethian conversion rituals.
Yet, perhaps still in these instances neither Plotinus nor Irenaeus were lying about the Gnostics’ ritual magic tendencies since even their choice texts indicates this as a reality. This all becomes rather apparent when one reads Ancient Christian Magic as a catalog for superstition. It is replete with magical spells including love, money, healing and spells for revenge. These Gnostic practitioners more than likely invoked the name of Abraxas among other barbarous, secret names of God for their rituals and prayers. Yet, interestingly enough, most people practicing magic in the middle ages and the Renaissance were Catholic priests and brothers, so magic is surprisingly close to Catholicism. The NHC text On the Origin of the World mentions a compendium of demons attributed to King Solomon, so it’s possible that some Gnostics practiced early Solomonic magic:
Then Death, being androgynous, mingled with his (own) nature and begot seven androgynous offspring. These are the names of the male ones: Jealousy, Wrath, Tears, Sighing, Suffering, Lamentation, Bitter Weeping. And these are the names of the female ones: Wrath, Pain, Lust, Sighing, Curse, Bitterness, Quarrelsomeness. They had intercourse with one another, and each one begot seven, so that they amount to forty-nine androgynous demons. Their names and their effects you will find in the Book of Solomon.
“Their effects” probably meant the abilities they could be compelled to use if summoned, something like the Goetia. Another example of spells and incantations that were employed by the Gnostics is provided and supported by Karen King in What is Gnosticism? who has argued that the demonic correspondences to human body parts (highlighting the inherent corruption of the human body) listed so thoroughly is the long recension of the Apocryphon of John which was intended for use in rituals to heal the sick or injured.
Some other of the Church Father’s (especially Epiphanius’ account in the Panarion, literally meaning “medicine chest” for poisonous heresies) accusations of the Gnostics was much more scandalous — much of it dealt with their alleged antinominan, lurid and pornographic-like accounts of secret Bacchic and Dionysian-like “swinging orgies” of their “agape feasts”. These orgiastic rites supposedly included the sacramental consumption of sexual fluids and even more unsavory practices that include the Eucharistic infanticide of an aborted embryo — not so dissimilar to the ones practiced in the higher degrees contained in the Ordo Templi Orientis (except for the cannibalism part). Epiphanius accusingly writes:
Their very liturgy they defile with the shame of promiscuity, consuming and con-taminating themselves with human and unclean flesh…. … [At their feasts:] They set out an abundance of meat and wine, even if they are poor. Having made their banquet from this and so to speak filled their veins to satiety, they proceed to arouse themselves. The man, moving away from the woman, says to his woman, “Arise, hold the love feast with your brother.” And the pitiful pair, having made love… then proceed to hold up their blas-phemy to heaven, the woman and the man taking the secretion from the male into their own hands and standing looking up to heaven. They hold in their hands the impurity and pray, … And then they consume it, partaking of their shamefulness, and they say, “This is the body of Christ and this is the Pasch for which our bodies suffer and are forced to confess the passion of Christ.” They do the same with what is of the woman, when she has the flow of blood: collecting the monthly blood of impurity from her, they take it and consume it together in the same way. Although they have sex with each other, they forbid the begetting of children. They are eager for the act of corruption not in order to engender children, but for the pleasure … But if … the woman becomes pregnant, then listen to something even more dreadful which they dare to do. Extracting the fetus at whatever time they choose to do the operation, they take the aborted infant and pound it up in a mortar with a pestle, and, mixing in honey and pepper and some other spices and sweet oils so as not to become nauseous, all the members of that herd of swine and dogs gather together and each partakes with his finger of the crushed up child … They dare to do other dreadful things as well. When they fall into a frenzy among themselves, they soil their hands with the shame of their secretion, and rising, with defiled hands pray stark naked. (86)
That’s a spicy meatball! Epiphanius’ lurid accusations against the Gnostics as practitioners of baby consumption and sacrifice is somewhat unique but not unlike those made against the Jews throughout the Middle-Ages as “blood libel”. Similarly, accusations of child sacrifice were made against Aleister Crowley because to his “Bloody Sacrifice” chapter in Magick in Theory and Practice due to the fact he plainly without symbolic gesture tells us that blood sacrifice is the most important and effective magickal technique available to the magician, and:
[a] male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory and suitable victim.
It is often said that Crowley’s references to “child sacrifice” were ghastly euphemisms to masturbation in a magical ritual. If this is the case then, this is indeed a “symbolic” failure on Crowley’s part. Later on Epiphanius describes and recounts the myth of the lewd Sophia or “Prounikos” (it seems like Epiphanius got it mad-confused with Sophia and Barbelo’s roles here) where she sets out to “reabsorb” and collect her living sparks of power that was stolen from her retarded son, Ialdabaoth and his legion of archons. She appeared to the archons in a beautiful and lustful form, seduced and quite literally, fucked the “living daylights” out of them, and when they had an emission she took their sperm, which contained the power originally belonging to her. Epiphanius repeats this in further detail:
For these angels went to war over the power from on high—they call her Prunicus, but she is called Barbero or Barbelo by other sects—because she displayed her beauty < and > drove them wild, and was sent for this purpose, to despoil the archons who had made this world. She has suffered no harm, but she brought them to the point of slaughtering each other from the lust for her that she aroused in them. And detaining her so that she should not go back up, they all had relations with her in each of her womanly and female bodies—for she kept migrating from female bodies into various bodies of human beings, cattle and the rest—so that, by the deeds they were doing in killing and being killed, they would cause their own diminution through the shedding of blood. Then, by gathering the power again, she would be able to ascend to heaven once more.
But others honor one “Prunicus” and like these, when they consummate their own passions with this kind of disgusting behavior, they say in mythological language of this interpretation of their disgusting behavior, “We are gathering the power of Prunicus from our bodies, and through their emissions.” That is, < they suppose they are gathering > the power of semen and menses.
For if they say, “Prunicus,” this is just a belch of lustfulness and incontinence. Anything called “prunicus” suggests a thing named for copulation, and the enterprise of seduction. (2) For there is a Greek expression which is used of men who deflower slave women, “He seduced so-and-so.” And the Greek swindlers who compose erotica also record the word in myths by saying that beauty is “seductive.”
Despite the strong erotic and sexual symbolism used in Gnostic myth, for the most part, the accusations were often made without merit since many texts such as the Pistis Sophia (of the Bruce Codex) explicitly condemns the literal practices described above in the strongest terms. The caricature the Apostolic Fathers would draw up as slander against the Gnostics isn’t exactly an original phenomena that started with them as certain antinomian libertine currents have always existed alongside mainstream religion so it is probable that a few of these cults embraced these practices through sexual ritual and initiation, yet were lumped in the Gnostic milieu by their enemies. These rituals of sexual magic were embraced by the Barbelite practitioners (identified by Epiphanius) while condemned by outsiders, both Gnostic and orthodox. Since some libertine Gnostic groups such as the Barbelites would consider the desirable “light-seed” inherent in the sperm and menstrual blood to be ingested in obscene rites, in a similar manner like Crowley did, then it would make perfect sense to engage in sexual ritual because it corresponded to their mythologies. Their “light” contained in their sexual emissions would be released back to the Supreme God in order to bypass the reproductive systems that perpetuated the materia by adding more bodies and souls under the wrath and authority of Jehovah, the blind and insane fallen angel and slave-master of the world.
Many religious sects have been accused of perversity by their opponents yet it is more than likely sexual rites similar to the one described above probably happened more or less. The biggest difference however between the ancient Gnostic’s and the neo-gnostic, occultists of today, is their rejection of the material world as a product of corruption and evil which cannot be saved. This point of view also distinguished them from Christians, Jews and pagans alike. Yet, many neo-gnostics who have undertaken the label also attempt to psychologize the Demiurge, because a central tenet of New Age is that material existence is inherently good, so the idea that creation is the product of a lesser, flawed being is repugnant to them.
Carl Jung in his seminal, The Seven Sermons of the Dead refers the figure as an “emergence” of form from the hidden depth of the Godhead as opposing and ultimately complimentary powers that become one in a sort of ying/yang tandem emobdied in Abraxas:
Abraxas is the god whom it is difficult to know. His power is the very greatest, because man does not perceive it at all. Man sees the supreme good of the sun, and also the endless evil of the devil, but Abraxas, he does not see, for he is undefinable life itself, which is the mother of good and evil alike…Abraxas is the sun and also the eternally gaping abyss of emptiness, of the diminisher and dissembler, the devil. The power of Abraxas is twofold. You can not see it, because in your eyes the opposition of this power seems to cancel it out. That which is spoken by God-the-Sun is life; that which is spoken by the Devil is death. Abraxas, however, speaks the venerable and also accursed word, which is life and death at once. Abraxas generates truth and falsehood, good and evil, light and darkness with the same word and in the same deed. Therefore Abraxas is truly the terrible one. He is magnificent even as the lion at the very moment when he strikes his prey down. His beauty is like the beauty of a spring morn.
Abraxas in this sense was seen as one of the many symbols Jung would use as the ancient doctrine of of “Coincidentia oppositorum” or the “unity of opposites”. Jung’s gnostic vision of 1916 with his bipolar Abraxas, which is written in the persona of Basilides, has virtually nothing to the actual teachings of the historical Basilides. Jung erroneously claimed that Abraxas was the embodiment of the Monad, where as the ancient heretics viewed Abraxas as a lower aeon or even an archon. Abraxas, like Baphomet, becomes a “syzygy” of an alchemical pair conjoined of good and evil, darkness and light, Christ and Anti-Christ, God and the Devil to the point where the figure transcended such dualities. Aleister Crowley also invokes the immensely complex and contradictory deity in the Gnostic Mass, evoking a certain ancient aura in the barbarous names of the god-forms he lists:
IO IO IO IAO SABAO KURIE ABRASAX KURIE MEITHRAS KURIE PHALLE. IO PAN, IO PAN PAN IO ISCHUROS, IO ATHANATOS IO ABROTOS IO IAO. KAIRE PHALLE KAIRE PAMPHAGE KAIRE PANGENETOR. HAGIOS, HAGIOS, HAGIOS IAO.
Here, Crowley perpetuates the magical tradition of orally icanting the “voces magicae” and “nomina barbara” in a simliar fashion that the ancient Gnostics would concieve in their secret rites. Abraxas in ancient, classical Gnosticism was more or less a positive aeonic figure (minus Basilides’ version of the astral lord) while Abraxas in the romantic occult world was a synthesis of dualities — of good and evil. This is symbolic of the considerable discrepancy between the western esotericism and occultism that seek a union of opposites versus “Gnostic” systems that seek to separate light from darkness. This issue is muddied even further by the likes of Carl Jung, who erroneously creates an association between Gnosticism through his doctrine of “Coniunctio Oppositorum”.
Although to be fair, there weren’t very many available “Gnostic” texts during his time in order to properly develop his views. This union of opposites when viewed from a classical dualist mystical lens becomes in actuality a tragedy that gives rise to human suffering and all the world’s horrors. The Classical Gnostics by several estimates (by judging choice texts) were “mitigated” or less severe in their view of duality with spirit being the original unity while matter being a shallow imitation of the higher forms. In this estimation, the light is seen as the only eternal principle while the world of matter is simply a passing shadow, a temporary set-back or foul-up in the scheme of infinity that will eventually be rectified. A more radical interpretation of dualism would be that light and darkness existing as co-eternal yet independent principles with their own domain in a constant dueling of powers found in the Manichean religion.
The light-dark opposite is for the most part rejected by western occultists due to its association with mainstream Judeo-Christian traditions which they consider deficient (e.g. the designation of ancient dualist religions and all previous religions in past civilizations, since they follow the supposed “LVX formula” as belonging to the troglodytes or cave-dwellers of “Old Aeon” in Thelema, for example). But the fact remains that the ancient Gnostics and many other groups (the Medieval Cathars, Manicheans, etc), considered themselves to be foremost as Christians and concerned with contrasts of sin and righteousness. To embrace the classical Gnostic tradition means to embrace their dualistic perspectives. It’s simply impossible separate such perspectives from Gnosticism with distain as many occult and new age practitioners do.
Aleister Crowley in Liber XC expresses the same sentiment as Jung’s “Coniunctio Oppositorum”, stating:
Many have arisen, being wise. They have said ‘Seek out the glittering Image in the place ever golden, and unite yourselves with it.’ Many have arisen, being foolish. They have said, ‘Stoop down into the darkly splendid world and be wedded to that Blind Creature of the Slime.’ I who am beyond Wisdom and Folly, arise and say unto you: achieve both weddings! Unite yourselves with both! Beware, beware, I say lest you seek after the one and lose the other! My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells. But since one is naturally attracted to the Angel, another to the Demon, let the first strengthen the lower link, the last attach more firmly to the higher. Thus shall equilibrium become perfect. I will aid my disciples; as fast as they acquire this balanced power and joy so faster will I push them.
Baphomet carries a great deal of occult significance — from its original inception in the romantic era and even into this day, yet the origins of the enigmatic figure stem from deficient and sensationalist misunderstandings and demonic imagery which hardly deserves any adoration or praise. Abraxas likewise too sinks back into this occult sensationalist mire despite its nuanced inception. Occultism is a “hidden practice” or “craft” that only those who are initiated deserve to study in all its glory, intently. Neither occultism nor its views on the “unity of the opposites” are necessarily “bad”, as it is simply another way of experiencing an altered state of consciousness. The Chimeric figures of Baphomet and Abraxas both represent these “altered states” of occult consciousness to varying degrees. Everything from the astral body, the working of aeonic angels and archonic demons, to the “balance of genders” as symbolized through the “Androgyne”, these two symbols carry a great degree of esoteric importance.
Occultism does however contain a very dark, elitist undercurrent that cannot be ignored, fostered in the bourgeoisie halls of the privileged elite.
Master everything, but give generously to your servants, once they have unconditionally submitted. (Crowley, Magic: Book 4, 278)
Ritual magic has long since been associated with learned elites, especially with its origins in Europe. This is especially true during the medieval era where the occult became synonymous with unsavory and often repulsive practices involved with “black magic”, which goes without saying with its verbose flowery language that makes up many of their ego-fueled rituals. Modern, “watered-down” occult magic also seems to give people a sense of empowerment in a world in which they are powerless. That is not to say that all forms of magic are in itself useless and authored by the Devil as many ancient theurgists and Gnostics would profess otherwise since what is termed “high magic” is aimed at recovering a perfect knowledge of the transcendent signature left within the deepest layer of being — the Spiritual Seed.
In ancient and modern esoteric literature and occultism, Baphomet possesses a great importance among occult practitioners. From its inception from Templar idol lore to the English Magi of Eliphas Levi and Aleister Crowley’s revision and integration into their religious philosophies (such as Crowley’s Thelema), Baphomet has become a virtual mascot for the occult arts. I will not go too deeply into the long and dry history of the archetype (only very briefly), but focus on the symbolism shared by both Baphomet and the Gnostic god-form of Abraxas, respectively as well as the many implications involved in their subsequent backgrounds. Abraxas too has a deep and powerful history in occultism that goes even farther back into the ancient secret halls of the initiation.
Let’s start with the ever so infamous figure of Baphomet. The origins of the name Baphomet vary considerably. One theory is that Baphomet is a variation of “Mahomet” (due to the Knights Templar campaign in the Middle East and inclusion of some Islamic religious ideas and rumors of even a fifth-column type of support for the Muslims), a medieval French corruption of the Prophet Muhammad, the warrior-king and founder of Islam. It does seem rather odd that a “whack-ass” attempt for a Western tongue to get around a Semitic language would become associated with a prime symbol of the occult. The Arabic abufihamet comes out as bufihimat, which is translated as “Father of Wisdom” or “understanding.” Therefore, we can’t expect Baphomet to mean exactly what it says. If only one could consult the “Father of Understanding” to really get it. There hardly is anymore reason to suppose that there is a more complex understanding of Baphomet. Yet, this doesn’t stop occultist-psuedo-historians from doing so.
The “true” origins of the first, fetid whispers in the dark regarding Baphomet’s name often begin with the Templars and their private rituals that included some kind of head bust (perhaps even a real severed head of a person) for purposes of divination which only fueled the rumors of devil worship. Indeed, it is suggested by few that the importance of Baphomet to the Templars was often over-stated as simply a “tabloid smear” by their accusers with about as much true metaphysical dimension as Jack Frost, May Pole, the Unicorn, the Bogey-man, Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. With its ambiguous origins aside, Baphomet has indeed been invoked out of the collective unconscious and into our awareness as a premier figure of the occult world.
A much more popular etymology, first established by Joseph Baron von Hammer-Purgstall can be ciphered as the “Baptism of Wisdom”, from the Greek words “Baph” and “Metis”, a likely key reference to Sophia, a common incarnation of the divine feminine replete in classical Gnosticism, the Kabbalah, the Bible (Proverbs especially) and the Apocrypha. According to the same author, another suggestion is given as the Hebrew “Maphtah Bet Yahweh”, meaning, “The Key to the House of God.” These two suggestions are brought up in the elaborate and out-of-date pseudo-history presented in The Discovery of the Mystery of Baphomet, by which the Knights Templars, like the Gnostics and Ophites, are convicted of Apostasy, of Idolatry and of moral Impurity, by their own Monuments. Can you say that two-times fast? In both instances, the meanings infer a reference to the figure of Baphomet as a hieroglyph world of magic or the divine powers.
The 19th century occultist, Eliphas Levi’s (his real name is Alphonse Constant) conception of Baphomet as the Egyptian “Goat of Mendes” or the “Sabbatic Goat” is probably the most well-known which was first published in the 1854 in the magical text called the Dogmas and Rituals of High Magic. Eliphas Levi’s Baphomet was portrayed as a Chimera hermaphrodite with bi-sexual features (the female breasts and the caduceus for an erect cock, phallic symbolism and all). There is also the kundalini (spiritual energy symbolized as a serpent located at the human spinal column to be unlocked by the opening of the seven chakra points), tantric images displayed by the stiff caduceus sleuthing upward for physical desire (to replace the image of a hard-on), the “Rod of Hermes”. The caduceus is also associated with eternal life and regeneration.
Baphomet’s hands also point upwards (with the words inscribed in the arm “Solve”) and downwards (“Coagula”) showing the shortened Hermetic axiom of “As Above, So Below”. “Solve et Coagula” is the great alchemical formula meaning “separate and join together” or “division and union”. The etymology of the word “alchemy” is derived from the Arabic el-kimya, Khem being the name for Egypt where magic and ritual was rightly pursued. The figure also bears a flaming torch on its head, symbolizing the fire of Prometheus similar to the Greek depictions of the Chimera as a fire-breathing elemental as well as wings of a fallen angel. The foremost common symbol of witchcraft and the occult, the pentagram is also most apparent placed strategically on his forehead. The pentagram in this sense is representative of the five elements (earth, fire, wind, water, spirit). Baphomet in this sense becomes the epitome of the “union of the opposites”, the upper and the lower, the balance of polarities and dualities inherent in the cosmos.
I will allow Eliphas Levi to explain the symbolism of his illustration even further, quoted from his book, Dogmas and Rituals of High Magic:
The goat on the frontispiece carries the sign of the pentagram on the forehead, with one point at the top, a symbol of light, his two hands forming the sign of occultism, the one pointing up to the white moon of Chesed, the other pointing down to the black one of Geburah. This sign expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice. His one arm is female, the other male like the ones of the androgyne of Khunrath, the attributes of which we had to unite with those of our goat because he is one and the same symbol. The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter, as the flame, whilst being tied to matter, shines above it. The beast’s head expresses the horror of the sinner, whose materially acting, solely responsible part has to bear the punishment exclusively; because the soul is insensitive according to its nature and can only suffer when it materializes. The rod standing instead of genitals symbolizes eternal life, the body covered with scales the water, the semi-circle above it the atmosphere, the feathers following above the volatile. Humanity is represented by the two breasts and the androgyne arms of this sphinx of the occult sciences. (211-212)
Despite the inherent esoteric and alchemical symbolism in the figure of Baphomet, there exists a certain demonic feature to the figure. Eliphas Levi’s insistence that it was not the same as the Devil is notable although he repeatedly compares it to the Devil Tarot card of the Major Arcana. Baphomet also seems to be an amalgamation of many different goat-forms including the infernal goat of Sabbath adored by witches of the Middle Ages, the severed head of the Templars in which they allegedly used for divination, the phallic lusty god, Pan, and finally the Marseilles Tarot trump card, The Devil. The horny Horned God is one of the oldest fertility gods in human history—taking the various incarnations of Nimrod, Mithras, and Dionysus, respectively. Eliphas Levi recognized this repeating “Horny god” archetype that eventually would become the patron saint of occultism as mentioned in his book, Transcendental Magic:
We recur once more to that terrible number fifteen, symbolized in the Tarot by a monster throned upon an altar, mitered and horned, having a woman’s breasts and the generative organs of a man — a chimera, a malformed sphinx, a synthesis of deformities. Below this figure we read a frank and simple inscription — the Devil. Yes, we confront here that phantom of all terrors, the dragon of all theogonies, the Ahriman of the Persians, the Typhon of the Egyptians, the Python of the Greeks, the old serpent of the Hebrews, the fantastic monster, the nightmare, the Croquemitaine, the gargoyle, the great beast of the Middle Ages, and — worse than all of these — the Baphomet of the Templars, the bearded idol of the alchemist, the obscene deity of Mendes, the goat of the Sabbath. (288)
Notice how Eliphas Levi contradicts himself by making no bones of Baphomet being associated with the Devil or Satan, the “prince of the air” and “lord of the world”, you know the dude that wants to take your soul along with him to roast in an eternal BBQ in the infernal, ruinous fires of hell. Yes, Baphomet takes on a very symbolic archetype or “egregore” rather than an actual existing entity, yet it cannot be denied there exists a daemonic aura it, indifferent to conventional morality or man’s projections of good or evil. Rumor has it, the inspiration behind Levi’s illustration is up for speculation but it is often traced back to the grotesque sculptured illustrations of ravenous bearded demons with bat-wings mutilating, boiling and consuming people in an orgy of hellish blood-lust that were portrayed in Templar churches found in Saint-Merrie of Paris, France. Bingo. (Pssst: If you want to actually see these hard-to-find illustrations, check out Illuminati 4: Brotherhood of the Beast on Youtube.)
In The Secret Doctrine, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky writes a footnote comparing Baphomet to the Azazel:
In Demonology, Satan is the leader of the opposition in Hell, the monarch of which was Beelzebub. He belongs to the fifth kind or class of Demons (of which there are nine according to the medieval Demonology), and he is at the head of witches and sorcerers. But see elsewhere the true meaning of Baphomet, the goat-headed Satan, one with Azazel, the scape-goat of Israel. Nature is the God Pan. (406)
Although the name Azazel bears no connection to the name of Baphomet, the goat-headed deity Pan bears striking resemblance to the symbol that would often be associated with Azazel. Azazel was also associated with the two-fold nature of the “scapegoat” of Jewish custom called the “Day of Atonement” where one goat is slain on an altar, while a second goat is sent away into the “wilderness”. The priest lays hands on the chosen goat’s head as a “sin-bearer”. The goat is sent away into the wilderness as a symbol of “removing” the guilt and sins of Israel.
But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before YHWH, to make atonement over him, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness. (Lev. 16:10)
In fact, “Azazel” has nothing to do with being a name and everything to do with being a noun (ayn, alpeh), meaning “dismissal” or “removal”. This sets a precedent for the Jewish conception of the high-priest, Messiah-King whose blood is shed to atone for the sins of man for all time.
The other symbol associated with Azazel was of course the enemy of mankind’s souls, Satan himself. The scapegoat was not killed just as the spirit of the Devil was not killed. The goat represents the condemnation of Satan and his infinitely inspired sins of humanity which is sent away into the dark, spiritual wilderness. The “casting out” of the accursed goat by the returning high-priest after returning from the Tabernacle is a symbolic prelude to Revelations 20:3, 10, where the Messiah, Jesus Christ as the heavenly judge and redeemer casts the old serpent Satan into the pit or the abyss after the war of Armageddon and his return from the super-celestial Throne Room of YHWH, the Lord of Hosts.
In the apocryphal Book of Enoch, the noun is associated with the leader of the rebellious “watchers”, the “sons of God” or fallen angels who had a propensity for copulating with human women. These angels are also specifically called “stars”. They are called “Watchers” or the (Greek) “Grigori” because they look down on Earth from Heaven, and they travel around through the 12 “watchtowers”, which are obviously the houses of the zodiac. Another reason why these angelic beings were called “Watchers” was that their job was to observe primarily humanity, lending a helping hand when necessary but not interfering in the course of human development. Of course, they do not keep their rules, thus disobeying the “Lord of Spirits” and instead did everything in their power to contact them, and reveal to them the “useless secrets of Heaven” as hidden, occult knowledge and of course, have divinely inspired-swinger parties. Thus, the angels become the original “stewards” of the first arcane knowledge as well as orgies of libidinous excess. This in turn produces “abortions” known as the blood-thirsty giant demonic race being referred as being referred as the “Nephilim” or the fallen, castaways.
Azazel along with several other fallen angels “oppressed the righteous” through his instruction of making instruments of war, antimony, cosmetics, and jewelry. His actions signaled the corruption the earth and godlessness. In Gnosticism, the myths concerning the fornication of angels were used in a cluster of similar themes concerning the seduction of the archons, the demonic abortions and the lustful demiurge’s rape of Eve. The fallen angels were often held as synonymous with the archons. Azazel along with his counterpart Shemhazai (the inciter or seducer angel) and host were cast into a hellish-like prison beneath the mountains of the earth, enchained and punished because “they do as if they were the Lord.” Again, the Book of Enoch says of the fallen angels that “their spirits, assuming many different forms, are defiling mankind.” Azazel’s judgment consists of being bound and cast into a deep pit in the desert as mentioned by 1 Enoch, “Make an opening in the desert which is in Dudael and cast him therein.” This of course also falls in line with the Azazel as a “sin-bearer” only this time bearing the multitude of sins of his angelic brethren. A fallen-angel Messiah perhaps?
Eliphas Levi in Transcendental Magic recognizes Azazel as a vessel for black magic:
IN BLACK MAGIC, THE DEVIL is THE GREAT MAGICAL AGENT EMPLOYED FOR EVIL PURPOSES BY A PERVERSE WILL. The old serpent of the legend is nothing else than the BLACK MAGIC, universal agent, the eternal fire of terrestrial life, the soul of the earth, and the living fount of hell. We have said that the astral light is the receptacle of forms, and these when evoked by reason are produced harmoniously, but when evoked by madness they appear disorderly and monstrous ; so originated the nightmares of St Anthony and the phantoms of the Sabbath. Do, therefore, the evocations of goetia and demonomania possess a practical result? Yes, certainly one which cannot be contested, one more terrible than could be recounted by legends! When any one invokes the devil with intentional ceremonies, the devil comes, and is seen. To escape dying from horror at the sight, to escape catalepsy or idiocy, one must be already mad. (126-127)
Eliphas Levi also recognizes Baphomet as some sort of “Universal Agent” that:
having equilibrium for its supreme law, while its direction is concerned immediately with the Great Arcanum of Transcendental Magic. … This agent… is precisely that which the adepts of the Middle Ages denominated the First Matter of the Great Work. The Gnostics represented it as the fiery body of the Holy Spirit; it was the object of adoration in the Secret Rites of the Sabbath and the Temple, under the hieroglyphic figure of Baphomet or the Androgyne of Mendes. (12)
Yet, even more puzzling is his declaration that Baphomet is equated to Christ or the Logos:
The symbolic head of the goat of Mendes is occasionally given to this figure, and it is then the Baphomet of the Templars and the Word of the Gnostics. (156)
This is a very not only out-dated, but insanely disjointed view of what the Gnostics actually “worshipped” in light of the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library and even the words of the Gnostics’ enemies contained within the Church Fathers’ rants against their doctrines as iconoclast, Satanic heresies. Their theologies, however, were distinctly different with Orthodox Christianity due to their Platonic and esoteric influences from their Hermetic lodges of Alexandria, Egypt. The lack thereof of any goat-head deities in any Gnostic system shows quite a bit of creativity on Eliphas Levi’s part since the classical Gnostic groups did not revere grotesque, chimera-like goats that would serve as a symbol for Wisdom or the Logos. It would be completely absurd to employ such monstrous, bestial forms to represent such higher divinities. As mentioned earlier, the “baptism of absorption of wisdom” is a common etymology for Baphomet created by Hammer-Purgstall, in which modern occultists to this day tend to use.
Eliphas Levi created Baphomet in the 19th century for the sake of his occult vogue, and it is not the actual historical meaning of the word. His era was a time when sensationalism and misinformation about history and etymology was rampant. When talking about historical movements we have to be careful that modern versions of terms like this isn’t foisted backwards in time, an anachronism. Without this modern reworking of the term, it loses all connection to historical Gnosticism.
Further onwards, Levi viewed Baphomet as the embodiment of an “astral light” that Levi defines as:
AZOTH, universal magnesia, the great magical agent, the astral light, the light of life, fertilized by animic force, by intellectual energy, which they compare to sulphur on account of its affinities with divine fire. (337)
In this sense, Baphomet serves as a symbol or primal force to express the magician’s will or intent in a magical ritual—a force virtually identical with Azoth, the “astral light”, the “universal solvent” or the “mercurial element” of alchemists—as the end result of the synthesis of opposites. Baphomet in light of substance of Azoth is largely representative of the “subtle” or “astral body of light” of the magician who at will projects this semi-spiritual body into a separate plane or order of existence which interpenetrates the world of earthly perceptions. It is this semi-spiritual substance that also makes up the ever so famous “astral realm”—a world only a step above the physical as an intermediate level.
The occult term, “astral light” is in Gnostic terms, the “psychic” or “soul” of the tripartite system of the pneuma (spirit), psychic (soul or in-between matter and spirit) and hylic (matter) substances that make up the substratum of the cosmos and the self. These substances originated from the passions of Sophia-Achamoth who originally belonged to a vast hierarchy of immortals or “aeons” in Gnostic cosmogonies and cosmologies that detail the spiritual universe before the rise and descent of the material. It is “prima material” or primal elements of matter, the stuff that makes up the affects of the stars” or to be more accurate the influences of the planets (e.g. astral determinism, the govern-ship of the seven celestial archons as a division of the Old Testament deity into the seven days of the week much like various pagan gods of the old world) which were considered to be synonymous with the fallen angels (the Enochian “Watchers”) and demons. They are subsequently listed in the Apocryphon of John as follows:
The names of the glory of those who rule over the seven heavens are these:
The first is Athoth, with the face of a lion;
The second Eloaios, with the face of an ass;
The third Astaphaios, with the face of a hyena;
The fourth Yao, with the face of a seven-headed snake,
The fifth Sabaoth, with the face of a dragon;
The sixth Adonin, with the face of an ape;
The seventh Sabbataios, with a face of shining flames of fire.
This is the Seven of the week; these are the ones who govern the world.
These wicked archons were also equated with the rulers of the seven visible planets that make up the “hebdomad,” a multi-layered network of prison walls with the Earth as the core “dungeon”. Under this fatalistic zodiacal system, the particles of the pneumatic seeds (spirits of light) ascend into the paradise of light after death. Before birth, the light-soul descends from the ladder of the cosmic spheres and in the process “coarsened” by each of the planet’s influences—impressing their negative properties on the soul thus diluting it into the dirty layers of shadowy matter. Accordingly, the spirit of man is heavenly, but his flesh, his hylic and psychic bodies, are both a creation of seven cosmic rulers. Their acolytes, equal in number to the days of the year, complete the anatomy and instill the passions of the flesh as indicated in the Book of Zoroaster as quoted by the Apocryphon of John:
This is the number of angels: together they are 365. They all worked on it until, limb for limb, the natural and material body was completed by them. Now there are other ones in charge over the remaining passions, whom I did not mention to you. But if you wish to know them, it is written in the book of Zoroaster.
To the Gnostics, the passage and ascent through the celestial spheres, present the greatest danger since every intermediate realm or “heaven” there is a ruling archon which threatens traveling souls to seize them and “throw” them back into the cycle of “metempsychosis” (the Platonic form of reincarnation) and eventually the unconscious “forgetfulness” of the world.
The astral gods of the zodiac who were the “dwellers of the threshold” challenged the adepts’ attempts to return to their paradisiacal origins. They take a leading part in Gnosis where in their cruel, sadistic and inimical ways draws the soul to sin only later to chastise it. The celestial lords of fate were driven away by the means of magic formulas, passwords and various holy names to help the departed particles of light on their spiritual sojourn to the original unity of light. One reason why Gnosticism was criticized by their Neoplatonic contemporaries back in the day was because their doctrines were too life denying and too transcendental. The Hermeticists and Neoplatonists thought that the archonic influences needed to be transformed (e.g. transmuting the black sun of Saturn into the Solar Logos); the ancient Gnostics on the other hand thought they had to be wholly considered to be corrupt and need to be transcended. So in this context, could Baphomet be an animal-headed archon?
Ultimately like Baphomet, this “astral light” can be assigned a whole host of meanings. Baphomet is by in large the occult’s adaptation of the mythological Chimera since it was made up of a variety of creatures formed into one monstrosity. Baphomet was by in large a collective reflection of the occultist’s various designation of meanings. Baphomet can be seen as an astral entity or guide in the “psychic”. Amazingly, however, later on in Transcendental Magic, Levi completely makes a 180 and changes his tune to suggest that the worship of Baphomet as a false idol was indeed just that!
…let us state boldly and precisely that all the inferior initiates of the occult sciences and profaners of the great arcanum, not only did in the past, but do now, and will ever, adore what is signified by this alarming symbol. (288)
Despite the smoking gun, Aleister Crowley (who so happened to consider himself a reincarnation of Eliphas Levi) had taken on the magical name of Baphomet as his initiatory title in the order (Supreme and Holy King) that would eventually become a driving force to spread the message of his religious mystical system known as Thelema (which is Greek for “Will”), the Order of Oriental Templars or more commonly known as the Ordo Templi Orientis which is a quasi-Masonic order. Crowley had ascended the ranks of the “solar-phallic” cult, the O.T.O. and eventually received control over the organization which claimed to hold the secrets of the Rosicrucian’s, Freemasonry, the Knights Templar and the Medieval Alchemists.
When Crowley would eventually become the head of the O.T.O., he would eventually add an 11th degree which is by in large dedicated to butt-sex and sperm guzzling, where the group’s members would have sex with Crowley, the self described “Mega Therion” which is Greek for the “Great Beast 666”. High level members of the O.T.O. are referred to as “Most Illuminated and Most Puissant Baphomet.” In The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Crowley indeed confesses to his affinity with the goat-demon:
I had taken the name Baphomet as my motto in the O.T.O. For six years and more I had tried to discover the proper way to spell this name. I knew that it must have eight letters, and also that the numerical and literal correspondences must be such as to express the meaning of the name in such a ways as to confirm what scholarship had found out about it, and also to clear up those problems which archaeologists had so far failed to solve…. One theory of the name is that it represents the words ???? ??????, the baptism of wisdom; another, that it is a corruption of a title meaning “Father Mithras”. Needless to say, the suffix R supported the latter theory. I added up the word as spelt by the Wizard. It totalled 729. This number had never appeared in my Cabbalistic working and therefore meant nothing to me. It however justified itself as being the cube of nine. The word ?????, the mystic title given by Christ to Peter as the cornerstone of the Church, has this same value. So far, the Wizard had shown great qualities! He had cleared up the etymological problem and shown why the Templars should have given the name Baphomet to their so-called idol. Baphomet was Father Mithras, the cubical stone which was the corner of the Temple.
Baphomet is also invoked in Aleister Crowley’s Gnostic Mass, the central ritual for the same cult through the words, “I believe in the serpent and the lion. Mystery of Mystery, in his name BAPHOMET.” In Thelemic lore, the “Lion and the Serpent” was largely symbolic of the sperm as mentioned in Crowley’s Book of Lies:
The predominant influence is that of the lion-serpent, Teth, a glyph of the spermatozoon, which is shown in the sigil in the shape of four vesicas depending from a serpentine form attached to a beast’s head…
In Liber Aleph, Crowley writes that pre-eminent in all sex magick “is the Formula of the Serpent with the Head of the Lion,” the semen, “and all this Magick is wrought by the Radiance and Creative Force thereof.” To Crowley the magick is man’s junk. The woman is a necessary, respected and consecrated essential of the formula for sex magic and creation, but only in a reflective sense as a vessel for the manifestation of the God. The word “mete” from Bapho(MET) has also been connected by linguists to the name of the Zoroastrian solar deity, Mithras. In Crowley’s Book of Thoth, he writes about another possibility behind the etymology of Baphomet:
Von Hammer-Purgstall was certaintly right in supposing Baphomet to be a form of a Bull-god, or rather, the Bull-slaying god, Mithras; for Baphomet should be spelt with an “r” at the end; thus it is clearly a corruption meaning “Father Mithras”. There is also here a connection with the ass, for it was an ass-headed god that he became an object of veneration of the Templars. (67)
The “lust” card of Crowley’s Thoth deck depicts the conjoining of Babalon and the Beast (an obvious derivative from the Whore of Babylon who rides the many dragon-headed Beast of the New Testament’s Book of Revelation or The Apocalypse of St. John), which produces the elixir (sperm) from the phallus into the cup or chalice (vagina). The occult Baphomet is the “magical child”, the hermaphroditic union and result of male and female forces in combination in the senses of the occult ritual of sex magic and sacrament (the consumption of the “elixer” or the mingled sexual fluids after intercourse). Baphomet is also associated with the fabled golem-like homunculus, “little person”, in other words a fetus (!) is produced in the flask of an alchemist. The occult importance often given to the sexual act by magicians is that orgasm mystically reunites and brings the participants mystically closer to the absolute in a holy mystery rather seen as a “sinful” act of in some dark corner of depravity. The true joy of sex has little to do with physical pleasure and more with the temporary spiritual integration of separate individuals in the original condition of the complete human–the original androgyne. The German Occultist Theodor Ruess, creator of the Ordo Templi Orientis had also embraced his own versions of tantric sex magic, practices which echo the the political accusations of sexual imppropriety of the Gnostics and Templars made by their orthodox enemies within the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, ironically such accusations would eventually resurface as the central teachings within the higher echelons of the O.T.O.
You can see this sexual “magical thinking” again in Crowley’s The Cephaloedium Working:
Ayin is moreover the Devil of Lust, the Goat of Mendes, Pan, Baphomet; and spelt fully Ayin is the Erection and Leaping and Extension of the Phallus; Yod is the Spermatoon, the Solitary Boy Hermes, the Virgin; while Nun is the Eagle of sexual Ecstasy, the Serpent of Life through Death, the Scorpion of Scarab of Kephra, the Womb which transmutes through corruption, the Semen or fluid vehicle of the Spirit, the Elixer of Magick, the Blood, Wine, and Poison in the Chalice.
According to the mystical doctrine of Thelema, Nuit, the “Lady of the Starry Heaven” who is the speaker of the first chapter of Liber AL vel Legis, interacts and copulates with her and copulates in superconscious intercourse with her masculine counterpart being Hadit, thus creating the manifest physical universe in a Gnostic-like syzygy. This concept distinctly echoes the theme of copulating hermaphroditic god-forms in classical Gnosticism, which were called “aeons” which emanated from the Supreme Father which come to act independently from the Monad’s will. Nuit is also arguably comparable to Sophia or Barbelo of ancient Gnosticism. Barbelo according to Sethian myth is the first reflex of the first divinity, called the Invisible Spirit. Between the Invisible Spirit and Barbelo, they give rise to a multitude of aeons. The concept of the androgyne is one that repeats in many alchemical and occult traditions. In Gnosticism, however, the androgyne was linked to the deficiency, imperfection and “lack of form” or spirit, in especially in the descriptions of the monsterous Demiurge in the Nag Hammadi texts.
In light of this “Thelemic” view on sexuality, Crowley’s more candid thoughts become more revealing as quoted by Israel Regardie in The Eye in the Triangle:
My instinct told me that Blake was right in saying ‘The lust of the goat is the glory of god.’ But I lacked the courage to admit it. The result of my training had been to obsess me with the hideously foul idea that inflicts such misery on Western minds and curses life with civil war. Europeans cannot face the facts frankly; they cannot escape from their animal appetite, yet suffer the tortures of fear and shame even while gratifying it. As Freud has now shown, this devastating complex is not merely responsible for most of the social and domestic misery of Europe and America, but exposes the individual to neurosis. It is hardly too much to say that our lives are blasted by conscience. We resort to suppression and the germs created an abscess. (63)
In Magick (Book 4) Crowley asserts that Baphomet was a (deficient) divine androgyne:
The Devil does not exist. It is a false name invented by the Black Brothers to imply a Unity in their ignorant muddle of dispersions. A devil who had unity would be a God… ‘The Devil’ is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes… This serpent, SATAN, is not the enemy of Man, but He who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil; He bade ‘Know Thyself!’ and taught Initiation. He is ‘The Devil’ of the Book of Thoth, and His emblem is BAPHOMET, the Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection… He is therefore Life, and Love. But moreover this letter is ayin, the Eye, so that he is Light; and his Zodiacal image of Capricornus, the leaping goat whose attribute is Liberty. (277)
In essence, Crowley was tapping into a sort of diabolical “Dionysian” or “Night of Pan” savage, lustful, sexual and destructive energy to fuel his feats of ritual magic and the supposed destruction of his ego (that didn’t really pan out well, now did it?). This becomes rather evident in what he and his “chela” Victor Neurberg was attempting to invoke in the strangely horrific yet hilarious episode, deep in a North African desert. Discovering one’s “true will” is in Thelema, the “true salvation”, let traditional “slave” morality be damned:
“There are no “standards of Right”. Ethics is balderdash. Each Star must go on its own orbit. To hell with “moral principle”; there is no such thing” - Crowley, Aleister. The Old and New Commentaries to Liber AL, II,28.
According to Crowley’s own commentary on his Liber AL vel Legis or more commonly known as The Book of the Law, the cornerstone of his religious system, the image of the “Lion and the Serpent” are also used to represent the “dwarf soul” or “secret self” represented by the god of silence, Harpocrates while mirroring the line used in Liber AL:
Every man and every woman is a star.
“Hadit” is also called being the core of each star which is described as “the Ego or Atman in everything.” This is called Khabs and it is the house of being (Hadit), the innermost (solar) light of the sovereign nature of each individual. Hadit, being the true self achieves a kind of “gnosis” by realizing its “True Will” through the Great Work. This higher ego is the “seed of life” as a concentration of the “phallic consciousness,” in the expansion of one’s will. The “Lion and the Serpent” overcomes death with renewal by creating continuity through generation. However, invoking such an image to represent the “pneumatic” self to a classical Gnostic would have been a ghastly anathema to their religious and philosophical doctrines. This was due to the fact that the “Lion and the Serpent” was representative of the blind, malicious and authoritative Demiurge-like demon Ialdabaoth, which is essence a mutated caricature representative of the Gnostic contempt for the Jewish deity, Jehovah.
Part II forthcoming…
“For he who has not known himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself has at the same time achieved knowledge about the depth of the all.” – Book of Thomas the Contender.
“Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is within you that makes everything his own and says ‘My god, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body.’ Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate. Learn how it happens that one watches without willing, rests without willing, loves without willing. If you carefully investigate these matters you will find him within yourself.” (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 8.15.1f.)
“Then lights, which are the means of Gnosis were given him, and he was given authority over all the secrets, so that he might distribute them to those who had striven.” - The Book of the Gnosis of Light.
Alright, I goofed up as my last entry wasn’t exactly my best. It was more of a gusty, spontaneous reaction against the collective irrational reaction over the recent court verdict. But forget about current events that have no bearing on our lives for a moment and let’s get back to the reason why I created this blog in the first place, shall we?
Knowledge in the ancient world was hotly debated, received and processed in different contexts. To Socrates, the most essential duty to one’s self was self-knowledge. This was brought out through radical inquiry, or the “Socratic method” that is a staple practice in practically every law school. The ancient oracle of Apollo, at Delphi, had the aphorism of “KNOW THYSELF” inscribed above the gateway. This axiom sounds deceptively simple, yet when faced with all the implications, it becomes a complex and difficult en-devour to internalize into inner-truths. Without this knowing, we are left wallowing, half-buried in our own ignorance, mistaking our thoughts and subjective consciousness as an objective and absolute truth. It is this self-deception the ancient philosophers reviled and helped dispel by honest interaction and dialogue. The only correct starting point for true knowledge is to admit one’s own ignorance: “The only thing I know is that I don’t know.” By starting at this point, a more honest position of limitations is acknowledged and appreciated in efforts to avoid whatever exceeds those boundaries.
Socrates’ student Plato defined knowledge or “epistemology” as deep metaphysical truth or an innate quality belonging to the immortal soul belonging to the “world of ideas”. When something is learned, it is in actuality “recalled” also known as “anamnesis”. This type of knowledge is certain and mere opinion or belief which is subject the impermanent world of appearances and sensation. Belief that happens to be true because of sheer luck does not qualify as knowledge. It is more often than not that beliefs are lacking in truth and a held in the bondage of falsehood. Knowledge was seen as a kind of “food for the soul”, the fuel towards even deeper shades of gnosis. Each time a person incarnates, this innate knowledge is forgotten at the shock of birth. Both Socrates and Plato saw themselves more as midwives rather than teachers since knowledge was already present deep within the soul’s pneuma (Greek for “spirit”) of the student, aiding along the innate knowledge to be given birth. Plato defines knowledge in this manner:
“This knowledge is not something that can be put into words like other sciences; but after long-continued intercourse between teacher and pupil, in joint pursuit of the subject, suddenly, like light flashing forth when a fire is kindled, it is born in the soul and straightway nourishes itself.” Seventh Letter, §341c.
For Plato philosophical understanding was something very similar to seeing, though a seeing not with the physical eye but with the soul. This soul or “Nous”, or the higher mind, (the “mind’s eye” or “third eye”) becomes the seat of the intellectual cultivation of truth. This reflection of the Divine Mind contained within the immortal soul or nous becomes the beholder of reality. Truth is seen as the essential means to reveal meaning and the purpose of life. It is also seen as the means to dispel falsehood and delusion. Searching for truth by the means of the intellect or the physical body will almost always inevitably lead to impasse and disappointment due to the fact the human creature is limited to the five senses of the physical world. True knowledge, however, is not inhibited by the level of corruption and death since it has an eternal character that is active, real and living. It must be an objective, substantial reality uninhibited by deception rather than a vague, abstract idea. Nietzsche, on the other hand would come along and repudiate the very idea of an “objective truth”, maintaining that the truth was entirely subjective to one’s own delusions. This view is in a way self-defeating.
Without seeing first-hand, the burning embers of truth, man is relegated to become troglodytes within Plato’s Cave. These troglodytes live unexamined lives and are self-enslaved by chosen ignorance or myopia by mistaking the shadows and darkness as objective reality due to the fiery embers (representing truth) behind them in which they are unable to see but cast shadowy reflections upon the rocky walls. If the prisoner is dragged out from the cave and into the light of the sun, he would finally confront the world as it really is. On return to the shadows of the cave, the liberated prisoner would attempt to share his new found knowledge only to be met with scorn and laughter. It is not that reality in itself is illusory but our perceptions of it are subject to delusion.
In eastern mysticism, the search for self-knowledge is treated with equal if not more-so importance. The Buddha taught self-awareness in his doctrine contained within the Buddha sutras and the dhrama or “way” to enlightenment which is defined as the means to end suffering or ignorance. Suffering is induced by to the false sense of “self” and its attachments to objects and desires which are also subject to transitory nature of reality. In the Heart Sutra, the Buddha explains this phenomenal self is actually made up of five “heaps” or ever-changing qualities called “skandhas” that includes: form, sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness. This persona isn’t an integral and autonomous entity. While this view is seemingly nihilistic, it however offers an allowance to shed the lesser identification of both body and mind and into the higher depths of the spirit in its ineffable adobe.
However, beyond this egoic by-product of the “heaps” exists another “observer” which is sometimes called the “unborn, undying mind” that exists in a deathless state of pure awareness beyond mere sensation or thought which is subject to the irrational passions. It is this divine substance that makes up the numinous self or in Hindu terms, the “atman”. In the Upanishads, the atman is described as being found in the secret cave of the spiritual heart. It is the non-emergent presence that exists from the start and supreme foundation of each individual. This atman is also called the “Buddha” or “I AM” nature which is present in the here and now rather than in some remote, unknown dimension in the cosmos. Adi Shankaracharya, in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita proclaims: “Self-knowledge alone eradicates misery”. ”Self-knowledge alone is the means to the highest bliss.” “Absolute perfection is the consummation of Self-knowledge.” Ramana Maharashi maintains similar sentiments with the “I” consciousness and the “Supreme Self”. This present, eternal character is defined in The Unborn: The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei:
“Since the physical body is something that was born and is composed of the elements of earth, water fire, and air brought temporarily together, according to the principle that what is born cannot avoid perishing, it, too, must one day perish. But the Buddha-mind is unborn; the body may be burned with fire or decompose through interment, but the Buddha-mind cannot. The unborn Buddha-mind simply makes the born body its temporary home. While it resides there, it is free to hear, see, smell, and so forth. But when the body perishes and it loses its dwelling place, it can no longer do those things. It’s as simple as that. The body, being created, has a birth and a death, but the mind, which is originally the unborn Buddha-mind, does not. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? It’s the same as Shakyamuni’s death or nirvana: ne is the unborn, and han is the undying mind. Both point to the Unborn.” (91)
This is comparable to Plato’s doctrine of self-knowledge or more accurately self-remembrance. It is not that the Buddha achieved enlightenment, but rather the Buddha realized he was enlightened the whole time. Not knowing this “Buddha-nature” only reveals one thing: that you live in ignorance. However, one can very well lead a life of happiness and be perfectly fine without undergoing the “way” to “enlightenment”. Undergoing such a path remains more of an innate “calling” rather than a spiritual fascist-like mandate for all to follow. In fact, it isn’t even good to attempt to dispel anyone’s ideological falsehoods. As Jeremy Puma over at Dharma Gnosis asserts, “This Way is for those who are called to it, not for those who do just fine without it. Once called, there is no return, but not everyone needs the journey. It’s available to everyone, but not everyone who is offered need accept. The importance is deciding this not for other people, but for yourself.”
The world-famous teacher and guru Krishnamurti who would eventually break away from the occult world of Theosophy had also this to say about self-knowledge in The First and Last Freedom:
“…the transformation of the world is brought about by the transformation of oneself, because the self is the product and a part of the total process of human existence. To transform oneself, self- knowledge is essential; without knowing what you are, there is no basis for right thought, and without knowing yourself there cannot be transformation. One must know oneself as one is, not as one wishes to be which is merely an ideal and therefore fictitious, unreal; it is only that which is that can be transformed, not that which you wish to be. To know oneself as one is requires an extraordinary alertness of mind, because what is is constantly undergoing transformation, change, and to follow it swiftly the mind must not be tethered to any particular dogma or belief, to any particular pattern of action.”
In Gnosticism, knowledge in their religious context was peculiar. It wasn’t a subjective or personal “mystical ecstasies or experience” or a “I’m divine so all is one and groovy” that is achieved by the means of self-practice or ritual. Rather, it was a revelatory transmission of information that one receives like a cell-phone tower in order to piece together the existential predicament and the means to interpret knowledge and theology in the most profound and often perhaps a transgressive, discordant sort of way. Exploring the world of the Gnostics is a bewildering exercise. Digging deep into their doctrines results in a kind of intellectual vertigo. All those names, all those claims. One is quickly overpowered by a desire to find some kind of objective reality, some concrete fact that one can hang on to. Second to fourth-century Mesopotamians inhabited a very strange time indeed, one in which a grasp on reality seemed to have totally slipped. They looked out on the world and where the vast majority of people see reality, they—like the Hindu and Buddhist sages of India—saw only illusion and confusion. To their way of thinking, the mass of ignorant humanity is utterly deceived in accepting the logic of rationality and the evidence of its senses. A glimpse of the underlying true nature is granted to a select few by the divine powers. This glimpse was the Gnosis, the Knowledge, and those to whom it had been granted were Gnostics.
This knowledge reveals that it is the means to enable the solar nature, the spiritual seed within, that shard of the infinite to be somehow liberated and find its way home out from the fetters of matter and darkness of empty being. This gnosis is esoteric in character and full of hidden secrets. Yet, not all esotericism is Gnostic. It is available to anyone and everyone provided that they undergo procedural initiation. The Gnostics are in essence a spiritual race of people or the pneumatikoi who have awakened to their real divine nature through gnosis. The other kinds of people (as well as the differentiated layers of self) include the psychikoi or psychics, who straddle the fence between the material and spiritual worlds, whose soul-nature may be guided by faith, but who will still need exceptional effort to gain enlightenment. And lastly, the hylikoi or hylics whose awareness was severely limited to the matters concerning the physical world. From a spiritual point of view, the hylics are essentially already dead. (Hence the caustic words of Jesus Christ in Luke 9:60: “Let the dead bury their dead.”)
Yet, the so-called “mystical experience of oneness and unity” that appears in more modern definitions of “gnosis” is in essence, a pipe-dream. At times, it seems if at all this sort of knowledge was necessary for spiritual salvation in this looking-glass world was to be able, like Alice in Wonderland’s Red Queen, to believe six impossible things before breakfast.
OMFG!! HOW DARE YOU PROFANE THE INEFFABLE MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE!! One might say.
Yet this is exactly the kind of attitude a highly esoteric and fragmentary text called Allogenes (Greek for “Stranger”) asserts in the strongest terms as revelatory information told in paradox:
“And I saw holy powers by means of the Luminaries of the virginal male Barbelo telling me that I would be able to test what happens in the world: “O Allogenes, behold your blessedness, how it silently abides, by which you know your proper self and, seeking yourself, withdraw to the Vitality that you will see moving. And although it is impossible for you to stand, fear nothing; but if you wish to stand, withdraw to the Existence, and you will find it standing and at rest after the likeness of the One who is truly at rest and (who) embraces all these silently and inactively. And when you receive a revelation of him by means of a primary revelation of the Unknown One – the One whom if you should know him, be ignorant of him – and you become afraid in that place, withdraw to the rear because of the activities. And when you become perfect in that place, still yourself. And in accordance with the pattern that indwells you, know likewise that it is this way in all such (matters) after this pattern. And do not further dissipate, so that you may be able to stand, and do not desire to be active, lest you fall in any way from the inactivity in you of the Unknown One. Do not know him, for it is impossible; but if by means of an enlightened thought you should know him, be ignorant of him.”
Yeah, that’s right, you heard Allogenes! According to this and many other Gnostic texts (others being the Apocryphon of John), seeking the ineffable on your own merits is but a fool’s errand. Digging deep within yourself is all fine and dandy, but until Grace grabs you by the hairs, and reveals personally to you what gnosis really is through mediation between you and a higher agency, you’re on your own buddy. In essence, this Apophatic God is only “known” through not knowing him, without reason or the intellect. The Supreme is only “known” by the vessel of an empty mind rather than a mind full of thought and emotion. It’s almost a call to radical agnosticism.
In Orthodox Christianity, the is also an indwelling spirit of Christ’s light “within” to bring about the internal Kingdom of God, although it’s rather specific to baptized Christians. Then we have this saying from the New Testament:
“Therefore leaving the elementary principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us move unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works (the Law), and of faith toward God; of the doctrine of baptisms, and laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment…” (Hebrews 5:14–6)
In other words, true Christianity is at is essence, spiritual maturity (in the light of Christ that is) rather than being compliant to all the numerous doctrines and dogmas that come with it. It is the “initiated” Christians that discover the true doctrine of Jesus Christ by the means of the straight gate and narrow way for regeneration. The spiritual baptism is conferred over the believer by the means of being “reborn of water and spirit” (John 3:5). The person’s soul is made a new and altered to reflect the image of God, in a kind of theosis. When the author of John speaks of consuming divinized flesh, it isn’t necessarily a reference to cannibalism or vampirism (although it’s pretty easy to assume this). Like the parable where Christ divides and multiplies fish and bread to the multitudes, Christ distributes the knowledge, the living information by the means to realize eternal life. Hence, you are what you eat. The sci-fi author Philip K. Dick was all over this subject. And let’s not forget Jung’s influential ideas of individuation (after all, it was he who posited the symbol of the crucified Christ as a powerful symbol of the Self in terms of alchemy and transformation). And many other western philosopher’s take on this slippery subject that is the Self.
Personally, I feel like there is some aspect of me that is unattached to the world of forms. Sometimes, I really do feel like I have a body as opposed to the feeling I am my body. The problem is however that 95-99% of my reality is occupied with concerns of the flesh and all its distractions (eating, sleeping, bathroom breaks, exercising, feeling horny, movies, TV, video-games, etc). One step further, this applies to not only me but the rest of everyone else. No-one really likes pain, but really let’s think on how our daily routines are foremost concerned with: money. “Will I have enough money to pay my bills?” “Will I get fired at the end of the day?” “Will I be foreclosed on?” “How will my credit rating reflect on me?”
This constant state of fear-floating stress is what keeps mankind in bondage within the chains of being. (It is the means in which the archons or “rulers” utilize to keep their Matrix-like system of control in working order, which is a subject I’ll get to in a future in-depth blog post). Yet, when you get down to it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that life is always in a constant influx of suffering and sorrow. Nor is it entirely joy and ecstasy. It’s what you make of reality (whether or not its a dream within a dream. Who knows, really?), and no one else can take that knowledge away from you.
So today is the day that the jury in the much publicized Casey Anthony case declared “Not Guilty” to all charges of murder except for providing false information to law enforcement. For all those who have been following this case since the beginning: I have regained my faith in the American Legal System. Why? You might say something to the effect of: “BREAKING NEWS FLORIDA LEGALIZED MURDER, LOLZ!1!” or “OMFG! I’M SHOCKED! JUSTICE IN AMERICA CASEY WALKS NO JUSTICE FOR BABY CAYLEE.” Sour grapes, my droogies. One of her attorneys, Jose Baez may be a douche all around, but somehow, the the son-of-a-boricua bitch pulled it off. Respect.
Like it or not, the justice system DID in fact work in this case. I personally suspect something that we’re not being told by neither the media or the court case. I watched most of the trial and just felt there was something we were not being told about the family that wanted kept hidden. The evidence against Casey was mostly circumstantial and certainly NOT proven beyond a reasonable doubt…not guilty on counts 1-3 was the ONLY sensible verdict all bias aside. I personally thought she would receive a guilty verdict on the manslaughter charge, but alas I was wrong. The smoking gun was absent in this case. She took pics of her hardy partying habits even well after the media attention of her daughter’s disappearance. Check. She’s a chronic liar. Double check. She’s one creepy chick. Triple check. But character analysis and deconstructing doesn’t cut it. In the United States of America, you have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is not a system of mob rule. You need evidence to make a conviction and there was not enough. I don’t care how many witless herds and blood-thirsty mobs call for her head.
Oh and on that note: I see many people invoking Dexter in regards to the Casey Anthony getting off the hook. On the Dexter Facebook fanpage one message reads: “You’re in Miami…not even half a days drive come & get her!” To everyone saying Casey should be killed: Okay retards, do you not realize that if she is, a prosecutor could charge you with conspiracy to commit 1st degree? The United States Constitution won. We won. It’s over, get the fuck over it. Yet, Casey Anthony’s life won’t ever be the same after this. In the end, she’ll probably “write” a book and get a huge deal out of it. Maybe make some lame reality show. Whatever. The life of her daughter however remains another story.
In Chapter 7, “Reading and Writing,” of Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche writes:
“Of all that is written, I love only what a person hath written with his blood. Write with blood, and thou wilt find that blood is spirit. It is no easy task to understand unfamiliar blood; I hate the reading idlers. He who knoweth the reader, doeth nothing more for the reader. Another century of readers—and spirit itself will stink.”
The above excerpt affirms the “gutsy” and brazen spirit of Nietzsche’s affirmation of life rather than the denial of it that is often found in many religions. Nietzsche was a truly brilliant, arrogant (and rightly so) insufferable prick—even more so because his very logical philosophy rings so truly. Nietzsche is by all means a very complex philosopher and one shouldn’t take his writings at face value. Thus Spake Zarathustra is no exception since it is a literary work expressing various aspects of his philosophy summed up as the “Will to Power” through the overman or “Übermensch” by the means of parables and colorful allegory. Nietzsche’s philosophy is, first and foremost, a declaration of freedom—in all respects, including the intellect. This freedom often inferred a complete dissolution from the chains of Judeo-Christianity (which I will get to in a more in-depth future blog-post).
Books that are “written in blood,” or in other words, the drawing inspiration from the pre-rational mind deep from the unconscious, for example are far much deeper and passionate then the detached, stiff sober writings of the purely cold and rational intellect. The purely cerebral works of academics and philosophers have no place in Nietzsche’s world. It is this disturbing descent into the rabbit hole that is the unconscious that the best writings are realized. Jung did it. This dichotomy was often represented as the two dualities embodied in Apollo and Dionysus. Apollonian order and rationality struggling against the Dionysian glorification of the purely instinctual were the almost cosmic forces at play inherent in man and society.
Much like the periods of the sun’s daylight and the night’s darkness and faint illumination of the pale moon, one cannot exist without the other force to balance each other out in an almost Taoist-like fashion. Each side serves as a viable function. Dionysian existence was the means to accept the tragedy inherent in our angsty, emo-ridden world and an affirmation of it despite the most terrible circumstances that one might experience. Yet, his philosophy would often be expressed in such related aspects of the Dionysian: the will to power, the eternal recurrence and the Overman. It is these “evil” and painful Dionysian forces in the universe that incite fear in people that they are wholly shunned. Zarathustra goes to great lengths to affirm life in spite of the darkness and potential terrors one might find in the shadowy corners of the world.
Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy tells us further about looking for the light in tragedy:
“But what changes come upon the weary desert of our culture, so darkly described, when it is touched by the magic of Dionysus! A storm seizes everything decrepit, rotten, broken, stunted; shrouds it in a whirling red cloud of dust and carries it into the air like a vulture. In vain confusion we seek for all that has vanished; for what we see has risen as if from beneath the earth into the gold light, so full and green, so luxuriantly alive, immeasurable and filled with yearning. Tragedy sits in sublime rapture amidst this abundance of life, suffering and delight, listening to a far-off, melancholy song which tells of the Mothers of Being, whose names are Delusion, Will, Woe.”
Nietzsche embraced the chaotic and irrational passions and conquers them through his ideal figure of the Übermensch rather than simply extinguish them that many philosophers before him had taught. Although Nietzsche had often disagreed with Plato, he still owes much of his inspiration from the ancient philosopher. In Republic IX, 588a-589b, Plato has intellectual and carnal appetite at odds with one another and illustrates this in an allegory, suggesting the human soul contains three features: the man (logos), a lion (thymos) and a hydra (eros). A healthy person is encouraged to use the man to train the lion in order to keep the thrashing hydra beast and its irrational passions at bay so that peace may be achieved. The opposite may be said for someone who has not tamed the hydra within.
Likewise, the Übermensch as represented as Zarathustra is a master over his irrational soul or “hydra” and wholly embraces it with all its fortitude and ugliness. Nietzsche however seems to disregard the dualism posited by Plato in regards to the body of being made up of physical and non-physical (spiritual) substances through the affirmation that “blood is spirit.” People do not have bodies. They are bodies. It is their physical characteristics that truly define their existence, here in the now, instead of the stressing of the metaphysical and mystical qualities of another world.
Writing from fiery inspiration of the belly is the true creative hallmark of every writer. Without the passionate drive to create, every work of art cannot exist. In fact, every living thing and person on the face of this planet cannot exist without the inherent drive to create and promulgate its interests by the fuel of the passions. It’s the call of the Dionysian lust which inspires passion. The true Übermensch masters both Apollo and Dionysus within one’s self. Zarathustra is the “lone wanderer” within the valley of life, taking on an almost spiritual sojourn that is of itself a most arduous task:
“Before my highest mountain I stand and before my longest wandering. To that end I must first go down deeper than ever I descended-deeper into pain than I ever descended, down into its blackest flood.”
Yet Zarathustra does not waver in face of adversity and instead laughs in the faces of his obstacles:
“Ye tell me, “Life is hard to bear.” But for what purpose should ye have your pride in the morning and your resignation in the evening? Life is hard to bear: but do not affect to be so delicate! We are all of us fine sumpter asses and she-asses.”
In other words: Don’t be a pussy. Those who constantly whimper to avoid pain and suffering remain little men and bereft of virtue and good merit. The writer likewise must face the scourges of the mind, of their existence and slay them with a sword of triumph (or at least conquer them and keep them enslaved to their will).
“I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity—through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!”
Most people live constrained and enchained to their past, while others live in a non-existent future which has not happened yet. Both the past and the future are different forms of non-existence, against which we compare and define the present moment. The teacher, Zarathustra knows ultimately that both these theoretical states of existence are irrelevant since the true joy of living and creating exists in the present moment, right here, right now.
His vision of the present is one of a bright, heroic future that proceeds from the magnificent now. The debilitating implications of eternal reoccurrence (that the universe is in an infinitely, constant samsara-like loop) becomes of no consequence because the self-realization that the higher-man Zarathustra has overcome these obstacles within and without. Without this knowledge, mankind remains enslaved to their pasts, their customs, to the decadence of society and perpetual mundane worldliness. Get some balls and move on with life! Volition is your friend. Write something that you truly love, not what you think someone else might like. Stumbling over artist or writer’s block? Cut it down! Do not do what you hate. Do what inspires. Do not slink into the corner in the face of difficulty. Follow your bliss. It’s entirely up to you.