Samizdat

"Samizdat: Publishing forbidden literature."

Month: June, 2014

Unlocking the Liber visionum of John of Morigny.

“….In the Liber visionum John of Morigny explains that each person who wishes to use the prayers of his book must copy his own volume by his own hand, substituting his name for that of John, and then consecrate the copy.

Of course, John is aware that his name is fairly frequent, and therefore he stresses that even those persons who are also called John must reproduce the book with their own hands if they really want to use it.”

–Benedek Láng, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, 2008, 183.

Demonic Books.

“A Kraków codex of encyclopedic content and of necromantic fame, the Liber viginti artium (Book of the Twenty Arts) of Paul of Prague, was believed to bear the traces of the touch of the devil.

Its demonic power was so feared even in the eighteenth century that the book was hidden under a stone for some years so that it could not be read; other reports claim that it was chained to the wall in the library of Vilnius. From time to time, the book is believed to possess sinister powers as if malign demons might reside in it. Various descriptions have come to us reporting that when such books were burned, bystanders heard the voices of escaping demons.

[…]

However, we do not necessarily need to hear escaping demons to view magic codices with a certain interest (or suspicion). As the main vehicles of secret and forbidden knowledge, they are responsible for the dissemination of learned magic, and their destruction or survival greatly depends on the picture they construct. Sometimes their attempt at legitimating their magical content by creating a most holy image remains unsuccessful and leads to the formation of an opposite, diabolical impression. We will see this (at least partly) failed effort in the case of the Ars notoria and the Liber visionum, the latter of which was not only condemned but also burned in Paris.

Benedek Láng, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, 2008: pg. 48.

Ficino, Talismans, and the Fifth Element.

“For Ficino the universe was made up of mystical links, or correspondences, that continuously interacted. The seven planets influenced the sublunary world with their qualities through the mystical links. The fundamental point in Ficino’s magic was that the magician, with knowledge of these mystical links, could manipulate them, and thus cause results according to his will. […]

The use of talismans as a means to attract the influence of planets was viewed as a highly powerful aid, but also a very dangerous one, since the Church condemned its use. Ficino was careful in advising the use of talismans, but, as Yates pointed out, he did discuss talismans in his work De vita coelitus comparanda. […]

According to Walker, the magic of Ficino used the human spiritus as its medium through which it worked. The spirit was the link between body and soul, and the human functions of sense-perception, imagination, and motor activity were connected to the spiritus. The human spiritus was made up of the four elements, and it formed a corporeal vapor that flowed from the brain, where it had its center, through the nervous system. Furthermore, the human spirit was connected to the spiritus mundi, which mostly consisted of the fifth element—quinta essentia or ether.”

–Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pg. 55.

Marsilio Ficino and the New Platonic Academy of Florence of 1462.

“In the second half of the fifteenth century there gathered around the Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499) a group of learned men that eventually became known as the “New Platonic Academy” at Florence, supposedly founded in 1462.

It was in the intellectual milieu around Ficino and his followers that Western esotericism, as it is viewed today, emerged from the various sources of late antiquity and the Middle Ages. Christian mysticism, Neoplatonism, ancient and medieval magic, gnosticism, and Jewish Kabbalah merged together with the hermetism of the Corpus Hermeticum.”

—-Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pg. 54.

The Lost Books of Dionysius The Aeropagite.

“The Corpus is today composed of Divine Names (Περὶ θείων ὀνομάτων), Mystical Theology (Περὶ μυστικῆς θεολογίας), Celestial Hierarchy (Περὶ τῆς οὐρανίου ἱεραρχίας), Ecclesiastical Hierarchy (Περὶ τῆς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς ἱεραρχίας), and ten epistles.

Seven other works, namely Theological Outlines (Θεολογικαὶ ὑποτυπώσεις), Symbolic Theology (Συμβολικὴ θεολογία), On Angelic Properties and Orders (Περὶ ἀγγελικῶν ἰδιοτήτων καὶ τάξεων), On the Just and Divine Judgement (Περὶ δικαίου καὶ θείου δικαστηρίου), On the Soul (Περὶ ψυχῆς), On Intelligible and Sensible Beings, and On the Divine Hymns, are mentioned repeatedly by pseudo-Dionysius in his surviving works, and are presumed either to be lost or to be fictional works mentioned by the Areopagite as a literary device to give the impression to his sixth century readers of engaging with the surviving fragments of a much larger first century corpus of writings.”

(NB: From the entry on Dionysius the Aeropagite, or rather, Pseudo-Dionysius: The Aeropagus was an open air theater in Athens where lawyers or speakers declaimed in public. It was, in fact, basically a court, where eminent personalities could be addressed and pleas for clemency evaluated. There was actually an area where murderers could seek sanctuary from punishment.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudo-Dionysius_the_Areopagite

“Perhaps the most important Neoplatonic philosopher who influenced early esotericism during the Middle Ages was Denys the Aeropagite with his theory of a hierarchy of angels and of the universe. The Aeropagite’s worldview continued to be important during the Renaissance, especially for the angelic (or demonic) magic of Pico and Agrippa.”

—-Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pg. 53.

Mystical Traditions and Secrecy.

“Significantly, it is in mystical traditions that secrecy is used most extensively.

Mystic traditions ranging from the Hindu and Buddhist guarded Tantric texts, the supposed secret teachings of Sakyamuni, the poetry of the Sufis, to the teachings of kabbalists and Christian mystics all have in common that their doctrines are restricted to initiates, and that their discourses are veiled in a symbolic language, which for uninitiated is often difficult to fully comprehend.

In the gnosticism of late antiquity the very notion of gnosis itself was regarded as a closely guarded secret.”

—-Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pp. 45-6.

Eliphas Lévi on the Four Words of the Magus.

“The name was misspelled as Scrire. In occultistic lore, Scire is the first “power of the Sphinx” that the initiate needs to master.

The four powers are Scire, Velle, Audere, and Tacere, or To Know, To Will, To Dare, and To Keep Silent.

Eliphas Lévi wrote: “To attain to Sanctum Regnum, in other words, the knowledge and power of the magi, there are four indispensable conditions—an intelligence illuminated by study, an intrepidity which nothing can check, a will which cannot be broken, and a prudence which nothing can corrupt and nothing intoxicate.

TO KNOW, TO DARE, TO WILL, TO KEEP SILENCE—such are the four words of the magus, inscribed upon the four symbolical forms of the sphinx.”

–Lévi, Transcendental Magic (1896), 30. Quoted in:

–Henrik Bogdan, Western Esotericism and Rituals of Initiation, 2007, pg. 207.

The Rosecrucians and the “Original Language of Adam and Enoch.”

“The Rosicrucian author(s) claim to know the primal characters, which God has incorporated in the Bible and also imprinted in heaven and earth; this is an evident reference to the primal alphabet of nature, an idea deriving from Christian Cabala, familiar to Agrippa and John Dee. It is from these characters that the Rosicrucians have borrowed their “magic writing,” thus forging a new language in which the nature of all things can be expressed. This is no less than the original language of Adam and Enoch. The Confessio’s emphasis on the Bible’s precedence over the book of nature is a further point of agreement with Paracelsus’s Christian fideism joined to Ficinian Neoplatonism.”

–Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction, 2008, pp. 111-2.

Haslmayr and the Paracelsian Theophrastia Sancta.

“Likewise, the unitarian Neoplatonic position is seemingly upheld by Paracelsus’s doctrine of the soul: “Man has two bodies: one from the earth, the second from the stars, and thus they are easily distinguishable. The elemental, material body goes to the grave along with its essence; the sidereal, subtle body dissolves gradually and goes back to its source, but the spirit of God in us, which is like His image, returns to Him whose image it is.

Throughout the Astronomia Magna one sees that Paracelsus is using a threefold hierarchical view of the world: mundane, celestial, and eternal corresponding to the body, soul, and spirit. The spirit is divine and will, as in the emanationist Neoplatonic philosophy of Plotinus which was Ficino’s great inspiration, return to the godhead. This was the threefold hierarchical world of Neoplatonic cosmology, which came through Ficino and Pico to Trithemius and Agrippa, still present in John Dee’s rigid theurgy and Robert Fludd’s wonderful engravings.” […]

“The spirit instructs man in supernatural and eternal things, and after the separation of matter from spirit it returns to the Lord.”26 […]

“The Spanish scholar Carlos Gilly sees Paracelsus’s large but only recently edited theological writings as providing the basis of a new supradenominational religious current in central Europe in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Paracelsus rejected the Mauerkirche (the church of stone) in De septem puncti idolatriae christianae (1525). He did not want to found a new sect, but strove instead for a church of the spirit, subject only to God and nature.

Paracelsus’s “religion of the two lights,” namely the light of grace, and the light of nature, was taken up by Adam Haslmayr (ca. 1560–1630), the first commentator on the Rosicrucian manifestos, which invoked the example of Paracelsus. Haslmayr called the revelation of Paracelsus the Theophrastia Sancta, and this term became emblematic among followers of Valentin Weigel and others as a new gospel for a second, truly radical reformation.” […]

“Like the seventeenth-century Paracelsians, Jung celebrated Paracelsus for his source of knowledge in the twin “lights” of nature and revelation and believed Paracelsus’s work to be an early intimation of the role of the unconscious. Arguing that alchemy is “the forerunner of our modern psychology of the unconscious,” he claimed Paracelsus as a pioneer of “empirical psychology and psychotherapy.”

–Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction, 2008, pg. 82-4.

The Original Divine Language of Creation.

“Clulee, in contrast, has offered a very detailed analysis of the text involving its astrological, alchemical, and numerological aspects to demonstrate convincingly that Dee is here attempting to elaborate an “alphabet of nature.” This refers to the reconstruction of the original divine language of Creation which stands behind all human languages.”

–Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction, 2008, “Planetary and Angel Magic in the Renaissance,” pg. 63.

Swedenborg, Spirits, and Angels.

“In his introduction to Arcana Coelestia, Swedenborg wrote, “Of the Lord’s Divine mercy it has been granted me now for some years to be constantly and uninterruptedly in company with spirits and angels.”

–Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction, 2008. “Swedenborg,” pg. 163.

Spurious Attributions in Renaissance Alchemical Literature.

“The Processus sub forma missae and its author were not unknown to the alchemists of the early modern era. The text was printed in the famous anthology of alchemical literature, the Theatrum Chemicum (Chemical Theater), by Lazarus Zetzner in 1602.

This point needs to be emphasized because the confusion in the literature concerning both the person and the work of Melchior is so great that it is hard to differentiate between evidence and legends even with regard to such simple things as the bibliographical data of his published text.

Melchior’s portrait appears on the title page of the Symbola Aureae Mensae Duodecim Nationum (The Symbols of the Golden Table of the Twelve Nations) by Michael Maier (1568–1622), the alchemist of Emperor Rudolf II. In this international history of the royal art, Melchior is chosen to represent Hungary among the twelve most famous alchemists of the world, and thus he appears in the noble company of Hermes Trismegistos, Maria the Jewess, Avicenna, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, and Raimundus Lullus.

He is mentioned and quoted by such authors and editors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as Daniel Stolz von Stolzenberg, Petrus Borelius, Libavius, and Athanasius Kircher. Even Isaac Newton was acquainted with Melchior’s name; relying on Maier’s description, he incorporated a number of Latin notes on a wide range of alchemical authors and myths in one of his many alchemical manuscripts, among these a few references to the alchemist of Transylvania.”

–Benedek Lang, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, 2008. Pg. 145.

Notes on Theurgy and the Mnemotechnic Metasciences of Raymond Lully.

Excerpts from footnotes in a book that I am reading:

8. “Briefly, theurgy is the art of bringing down celestial beings (angels) through the use of prayers on the one hand, and of ecstatic ascent toward union with God, on the other.

9. Among mnemotechnic metasciences, the Ars magna of Raimundus Lullus is no doubt the most famous.”

–Benedek Lang, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, 2008. Pg. 165.

On the Ars Notoria of Solomon and Apollonius.

“The Ars notoria, which is ascribed to Solomon and his “friend and successor” Apollonius, is a fairly widespread work of medieval ritual magic and theurgy. If we are not trained in the field of learned magic, we will easily mistake it at first glance for an innocent religious text, because the ritual of the Ars notoria is nothing other than an elaborated liturgical program composed of prayers and orations addressed to transcendent agents.

Only a closer look reveals that the text, by means of its large variety of prayers, invocations of divine and angelic names, and numerous rituals, actually promises intellectual perfection, learning, the acquisition of memory, and the ability to understand difficult books.

To use its procedures one must first practice a course of confession, fasting, chastity, penitence, and the cultivation of physical and psychological purity lasting several months.

However pious this text may seem, its emphasis on the efficacy of words and names of God to help the user attain power, and the purposes for which a user might turn to it— the acquisition of absolute knowledge, moral perfection, and unlimited memory— bring it close to other magical arts.”

–Benedek Lang, Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe, 2008. Pg. 165.

Omar Khayyam on Predestination.

LXXIII

“With Earth’s first clay they did the last man knead,

And then of the last harvest sow’d the seed:

Yea, the first morning of creation wrote

What the last dawn of reckoning shall read.”

–Omar Khayyam, The Rubaiyat.

Jung on the Prophetic Significance of Dreams.

“Just as the largest part of the past is so far removed that it is not reached by history, so too the greater part of the unconscious determinants is unreachable.

History, however, knows nothing of two kinds of thing, that which is hidden in the past and that which is hidden in the future. Both perhaps might be attained with a certain amount of probability; the first as a postulate, the second as an historical prognosis.

In so far as tomorrow is already contained in today, and all the threads of the future are in place, so a more profound knowledge of the past might render possible a more or less far reaching and certain knowledge of the future (…)

Just as traces of memory long since fallen beneath the threshold of consciousness are accessible in the unconscious, so too there are certain very fine subliminal combinations of the future, which are of the greatest significance for future happenings in so far as the future is conditioned by our own psychology… it appears from time to time, in certain cases, significant fragments of this process come to light, at least in dreams. From this comes the prophetic significance of the dream long claimed by superstition. 

 The aversion of the scientific man of today to this type of thinking, hardly to be called phantastic, is merely an overcompensation to the very ancient and all too great inclination of mankind to believe in prophesies and superstitions.”

 –Carl Gustav Jung, Psychology of the Unconscious, 1916.

The Zohar and Reflection.

“The author of the Zohar put on, when writing this work, several layers of disguise, hiding his own personality, time, and language. He created an artificial language, an Aramaic that is not found in the same way anywhere else, innovating a vocabulary and grammatical forms. He attributed the work to ancient sages, and created a narrative that occurs in a distant place at another time …

“The radical mythological descriptions of the divine powers, the unhesitating use of detailed erotic language, and the visionary character of many sections–these are unequaled in Jewish literature, and place the Zohar among the most daring and radical works of religious literature and mysticism in any language.”

“…. the Zoharic worldview is based on the concept of reflection: everything is the reflection of everything else. The verses of scriptures reflect the emanation and structure of the divine world; as does the human body, in the anthropomorphic concept of the sefirot, and the human soul, which originates from the divine realm and in its various parts reflects the functions and dynamism of the sefirot.

“…The structure of the temple in Jerusalem and the ancient rituals practiced in it are a reflection of all other processes, in the universe, in man, and within the heavenly realms….Everything is a metaphor for everything else….All of this is presented as a secret message, a heavenly revelation to ancient sages, using conventional, authoritative methodologies.”

—-Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, 2006, pp. 32-4

The Book Bahir

The Book Bahir, (anonymous, 1185), attributed to Rabbi Nehunia ben ha-Kanah, “begins with a few statements concerning the creation. In the first part of the book there are many discussions of the letters of the alphabet, their shapes, and the meaning of their names.”

“This work is the first Jewish treatise that presents in a positive manner the concept of transmigration of souls, the reincarnation or rebirth of the same souls again and again.”

(I had no idea that reincarnation had any place in Jewish Kabbalah).

 This work is technically the earliest work of the Kabbalah, based on three major concepts which are not found in earlier Jewish sources. 

The first is the description of the divine world consisting of ten hypostases, ten divine powers, which are called ma’amarot (utterances), which were known in later kabbalalistic writings as the ten sefirot

The second is the identification of one of the ten divine powers as feminine, separate from the other nine, and thus introducing gender dualism into the image of the divine realms. 

The third is the description of the divine world as a tree (ilan); the work states that the divine powers are positioned one above the other like the branches of a tree. But the image was one of an upside-down tree, its roots above and its branches growing downward, toward the earth.

These three concepts became characteristic of Kabbalah as a whole, (excepting Abraham Abulafia, who rejected the concept of the ten sefirot), and the presence of these three concepts identifies works as part of the tradition of Kabbalah. 

“In addition to these three concepts there is in the Book Bahir a more dramatic description of the realm of evil than those usually found in earlier Jewish sources, but there is no final separation between God and Satan. The powers of evil are described as the fingers of God’s left hand.”

–Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, 2006, pp. 20-2.

Prayers as Reflections of Intrinsic Harmonies.

“Rabbi Judah the Pious developed a unique conception of the Hebrew prayers, intensely mystical in character, which viewed the text of the traditional prayers as a reflection of a hidden, intrinsic numerical harmony that binds together the words and letters of the sacred texts and all phenomena of existence.”

–Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, 2006, pg. 19. 

More on Creation Through the Powers of the Alphabet.

“The Sefer Yezira (The Book of Creation) describes the process of creation mainly by the power of the letters of the alphabet. It dates to the 10th Century AD, though it was regarded as an ancient work. It was clearly developed and edited for several generations before it emerged into view. The exact date of its origin is unknown. Some assert that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, while others claim that it was written in the 9th century, with Islamic influences. The consensus seems to be that it dates to the third or fourth century, but there is no definitive evidence.

The concluding sentences state that Abraham knew the secrets of this work, so it is traditionally ascribed to Abraham the Patriarch.

The Book of Creation describes a system of cosmogony and cosmology different from Genesis, yet cites no authority and rarely refers to Bible verses.

“The universe was hewed, according to the first paragraph, by thirty-two “wondrous paths of wisdom,” and engraved in “three books.” The “paths” are described as ten sefirot and the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. These sefirot are not divine powers….” They are “described as the directions or dimensions of the cosmos, (north, south, east, west, up, down, beginning, end, good, and evil), as well as the holy beasts of Ezekiel’s chariot, the stages of the emergence of the three elements (divine spirit, air or wind, and water and fire), and other characteristics that are unclear.”

“Early commentators interpreted the sefirot as the ten basic numbers from one to ten.”

“The central concept … is harmonia mundi, (harmony of the universe). There are three layers of existence, the cosmic, that of time, and that of man. Each letter, or group of letters, is in charge of one aspect of each layer.”

“Thus … the Hebrew letters that can be pronounced in two different ways–whose number, according to this work, is seven–in the cosmos, are in charge of the seven planets; in “time,” are in charge of the seven days of the week; and, in man, are in charge of the seven orifices in the head (eyes, ears, nostrils and mouth).

“The twelve letters that the author describes as “simple” are in charge of the twelve zodiac signs, the twelve months, and the twelve principal limbs, and so on. This model was used by subsequent thinkers to develop the concept of human beings as microcosmos, reflecting the characteristics of the cosmos as a whole (especially by Shabbatai Donolo, who used it to interpret the the verse in Genesis 1:27, indicating that man was created in the image of God).”

“The concept that the universe was created by the power of divine speech is an ancient one in Judaism, and the Sefer Yezira developed this idea systematically. The guiding principle seems to have been that if creation is accomplished by language, then the laws of creation are the laws of language. Grammar thus was conceived as the basic law of nature. The author developed a Hebrew grammar based on 231 “roots”–the number of possible combinations of 22 letters. He explained the existence of good and evil in the universe as a grammatical process: if the letter ayin is added to the “root” ng as a prefix, it gives ong, great pleasure, but if it is added as a suffix, it means infliction, malady. The author also insisted that everything in the universe, following grammatical principles, has two aspects, parallel to the gender duality of masculine and feminine.”

“The kabbalists … positioned this work in the heart of Jewish sacred tradition, a source of divine wisdom parallel to that of the Hebrew Bible.”

–Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, 2006, pp. 16-18.

Pablo Neruda on the Language of Rain.

“In what language does rain fall over tormented cities?”

–Pablo Neruda, The Book of Questions.

On Jewish Esoterica.

Joseph Dan states that “A small library of about two dozen treatises reached us from the writings of Jewish esoterics in late antiquity dealing with these two subjects, the secret of creation and the secret of the divine realm, the merkavah. It is known as the “Hekhalot (celestial palaces or temples) and Merkavah” literature, because several of the treatises have these terms in their titles.”

“The most detailed work in this group is Seder Rabba de-Bereshit (The Extended Description of Genesis). The second main subject in this small library is magic.”

Dan refers to the “most elaborate ancient Jewish directory for magical formulas,” the Harba de-Moshe (The Sword of Moses), which includes “several hundred magical incantations and procedures …” from “magical remedies to love potions to walking on water.”

Magic is prominently addressed in the Sefer ha-Razim (The Book of Secrets). The third main subject is the description of the chariot in Ezekiel and other biblical sections describing the abode of God. The texts include detailed lists of angels, naming them and their functions, as well as discussions of the secret names of God and the archangels.

The fourth subject “describes an active procedure by which a person can ascend to the divine realms and reach the highest level, and even “face God in his glory.” The process of ascension is termed “descent to the chariot,” and the sages who accomplish it are called yordey ha-merkavah (the descenders to the chariot). These are first-person accounts attributed to Rabbi Akibah and Rabbi Ishmael. These sages overcame many dangers to “join with the angels in the celestial rituals of praise to God.”

The Shiur Komah (The Measurement of the Height) relates a list of God’s limbs, beard, forehead, eyes and irises, designated by obscure, strange, unpronounceable names, measured in terms of miles, feet and fingers. The basic measurement used is the length of the whole universe (derived from Isaiah 40:12), yet each divine limb is trillions of times longer. It is the source of the sefirot, the kabbalistic system of divine attributes. 

–Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, 2006, pp. 13-15.

Creation by Alphabet

“The ancient Sefer Yezira, the Book of Creation, describes the process of creation mainly by the power of the letters of the alphabet.”

There is a parable that states that four sages entered a pardes, a royal garden, to study these scriptures. One died, a second went insane, the third became a heretic, and only the fourth, Rabbi Akibah ben Joseph, “entered in peace and came out in peace.”

The expression “entrance to the pardes” was understood to refer to a profound religious experience of entering the divine realm and encountering God. The term pardes is derived from the Persian, and adopted in its Greek form as “Paradise.”

–Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, 2006, pg. 12-13.

Origins of Jewish Esotericism.

The origins of Jewish esotericism derive from a talmudic statement made in the Mishnah (Hagiga 2:1), circa 1st century CE. It was forbidden to expound two particular sections of scripture in public, and hazardous to even study them in small groups. The sections are the chapters of the Book of Genesis, describing the creation of the cosmos, called ma’aseh bereshit (the work of genesis) in the Talmud

The second section was the first book of the Book of Ezekiel, called the ma’aseh merkavah (the work of the chariot), being the prophet Ezekiel’s description of the vision of the celestial chariot in Ezekiel 1 and 10. 

They were regarded as spiritually and even physically dangerous. 

—-Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, 2006, pg. 11. 

Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction

 Joseph Dan says that Kabbalah can be considered:

a. The essence of Assyrian religion (!?). 

b. The essence of Christianity. 

c. Mysticism. A form of mysticism. 

d. A secret magical tradition. 

“Mysticism” is completely absent from both Jewish and Islamic cultures until the 19th century. The concept of mysticism derives from Christianity, referring to the mystical way of life, prayer and devotion that leads to a mystical union with God. 

Traditional definitions of the term describe “mysticism” as the aspiration and sometime achievement of a direct, experiential relationship with God. One characteristic of mysticism is the denial of language’s ability to express religious truth. “In mysticism, language is apophatic, a “language of unsaying,” language that denies its own communicative message.” Religion can be communicated using words. Mysticism cannot.  

Kabbalah is Jewish. Sufism is Islamic. Christianity was allegedly the original form of mysticism. And yet, “the concept of ancient tradition that permeates the kabbalah, and the sack that early Islamic Sufis wore, which probably gave them this appellation, have no parallel in Christian mysticism.”

–Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, 2006. Ppg. 8-10.

Apuleius on Queen Isis.

“I am she that is the naturall mother of all things, mistresse and governesse of all the Elements, the initiall progeny of worlds, chiefe of powers divine, Queene of heaven! the principall of the Gods celestiall, the light of the goddesses: at my will the planets of the ayre, the wholesome winds of the Seas, and the silences of hell be diposed; my name, my divinity is adored throughout all the world in divers manners, in variable customes and in many names, for the Phrygians call me the mother of the Gods: the Athenians, Minerva: the Cyprians, Venus: the Candians, Diana: the Sicilians Proserpina: the Eleusians, Ceres: some Juno, other Bellona, other Hecate: and principally the Aethiopians which dwell in the Orient, and the Aegyptians which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustome to worship mee, doe call mee Queene Isis.”

–Lucius Apuleius (“Africanus”), The Golden Asse, or The Metamorphoses, William Adlington, trans., 1566 & 1639), pg. 86. Excerpt from the 1639 edition.

A somewhat different version is excerpted in Robert Graves, The White Goddess, 1971, pp. 72-3.

Frank Herbert on Time.

“If he refused to move, he knew that he would remain caught in the timeless web, the eternal now where all events coexisted. This prospect enticed him. He saw Time as a convention shaped by the collective mind of all sentience. Time and space were categories imposed on the universe by his Mind. He had but to break free of the multiplicity where prescient visions lured him.”

–Frank Herbert, Children of Dune, pg. 182. 

Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.”

JABBERWOCKY

 ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves 
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; 
All mimsy were the borogoves, 
And the mome raths outgrabe. 

‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son! 
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! 
 Beware the Jujub bird, and shun 
The frumious Bandersnatch!’ 

 He took his vorpal sword in hand: 
Long time the manxome foe he sought — 
 So rested he by the Tumtum tree, 
And stood awhile in thought. 

And as in uffish thought he stood, 
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, 
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, 
 And burbled as it came! 

One, two!! One, two!! And through and through 
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! 
He left it dead, and with its head 
He went galumphing back. 

‘And has thou slain the Jabberwock? 
Come to my arms, my beamish boy! 
O frabjous day! Calloh! Callay! 
He chortled in his joy. 

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves 
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; 
All mimsy were the borogoves, 
And the mome raths outgrabe. ”

–Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, pp. 19-20.

Mirrors as Labyrinths.

“My other nightmare is that of the mirror. The two are not distinct, as it only takes two facing mirrors to construct a labyrinth. I remember seeing, in the house of Dora de Alvear in the Belgrano district, a circular room whose walls and doors were mirrored, so that whoever entered the room found himself at the center of a truly infinite labyrinth.”

— –Jorge Luis Borges, “Nightmares,” Seven Nights, 1984, pg. 29. 

Borges on the Demonic Origin of Nightmares.

“In all of these words there is an idea of demonic origin, the idea of a demon who causes the nightmare. I believe it does not derive simply from a superstition. I believe that there is–and I speak with complete honesty and sincerity–something true in this idea.”

 –Jorge Luis Borges, “Nightmares,” Seven Nights, 1984, pp. 28-9.

Borges, Dreams, Nightmares, Metaphysics.

“For the savage and for the child, dreams are episodes of the waking life; for poets and mystics, it is not impossible for all of the waking life to be a dream.

This was said, in a dry and laconic fashion, by Calderón: “life is a dream.” It was said, with an image, by Shakespeare: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” And splendidly by the Austrian poet Walter von der Vogelweide, who asked, “Ist mein Leben getraäumt oder ist es wahr?” –have I dreamed my life or is it real?

I am not sure. It takes us certainly to solipsism, to the suspicion that there is only one dreamer and that dreamer is every one of us. That dreamer–let us imagine that I am he–is, at this very moment, dreaming you. He is dreaming this room and this lecture. There is only one dreamer, and that dreamer dreams all of the cosmic process, dreams all of the world’s history, dreams everything, including your childhood and your adolescence.

All of this could not have happened; at this moment it begins to exist. He begins to dream and is each one of us–not us, but each one. At this moment I am dreaming that I am giving a lecture on the Calle Charcas, that I am looking for things to say (and perhaps not finding them); I am dreaming you.

But it is not true. Each one of you is dreaming me and the others.”

–Jorge Luis Borges, “Nightmares,” Seven Nights, 1984. Pp. 26-7.

Marduk’s Tower of Babel.

Modern archeology estimates the height of the Tower of Babel, a ziggurat dedicated to Marduk, at 270 feet high. 

–Fred S. Kleiner, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History, enhanced 13th Edition. 2005, 2009, 2011. “Sumer,” Pg. 33.

Herodotus, 5th Century BCE, described it: “In the middle of the sanctuary [of Marduk] has been built a solid tower……which supports another tower, which in turn supports another, and so on; there are eight towers in all. A stairway has been constructed to wind its way up the outside of all the towers; halfway up the stairway there is a shelter with benches to rest on, where people making the ascent can sit and catch their breath. In the last tower there is a huge temple. The temple contains a large couch, which is adorned with fine coverings and has a golden table standing beside it, but there are no statutes at all standing there…..[The Babylonians] say that the god comes in person to the temple [compare the Sumerian notion of the temple as a “waiting room”] and rests on the couch; I do not believe this story myself.” 

–Herodotus: The Histories, Robin Waterfield, trans., New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 79-80. 

 Quoted in Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, pg. 48. 

Kafka on the Fall.

“The Expulsion from Paradise is eternal in its principal aspect: this makes it irrevocable, and our living in this world inevitable, but the eternal nature of the process has the effect that not only could we remain forever in Paradise, but that we are currently there, whether we know it or not.”

— –Franz Kafka, The Zürau Aphorisms, 2006, pg. 65. 

Robert Graves on Remembering the Future.

“In the poetic act, time is suspended and details of future experience often become incorporated in the poem, as they do in dreams. This explains why the first Muse of the Greek triad was named Mnemosyne, ‘Memory’: one can have memory of the future as well as of the past. Memory of the future is usually called instinct in animals, intuition in human beings.” 

–Robert Graves, The White Goddess, pg. 343

Pythagoras, an initiate of the Orphic Mysteries, and the Transmigration of Souls.

“…Pythagoras was a Pelasgian from Samos who developed his doctrine of the Transmigration of Souls as the result of foreign travel. According to his biographer Porphyrius he went to Crete, the seat of the purest Orphic doctrine, for initiation by the Idaean Dactyls.

They ritually purified him with a thunderbolt, that is to say they made a pretense of killing him with either a meteoric stone or a neolithic axe popularly mistaken for a thunderbolt; after which he lay face-downwards on the sea shore all night covered with black lamb’s wool; then spent ‘three times nine hallowed days and nights in the Idaean Cave’; finally emerged for his initiation.

Presumably he then drank the customary Orphic cup of goat’s milk and honey at dawn (the drink of Cretan Zeus who had been born in that very cave) and was garlanded with white flowers. Porphyrius does not record exactly when all this took place…Pythagorus was reborn at the winter solstice festival as an incarnation of Zeus….and went through the usual mimetic transformation: bull, hawk, woman, lion, fish, serpent, etc.” 

–Robert Graves, The White Goddess, pp. 282-3.

Alchemical Implications of Dee’s Monas

“As with Dee’s Pythagorean speculations, here, too, we find instances of later writers either directly referring to Dee or at least making use of similar techniques. Petrus Bungus’s Numerorum Mysteria (1618), for instance, refers the reader to Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica in a discussion of the letter X and the significance of the point at the intersection of the four radiating lines, with unity denoting God and a good intellect, and duality a demon and bad intellect.

Dorn, in another of his scholia to the Tractatus Aureus, this time commenting on Hermes’ ruminations on the symbolism of a hen’s egg, takes Dee’s Roman numeral speculations in Theorem 16 a stage further.

He argues that the two letter Vs which mirror one another represent, as it were, the “As above, so below” maxim of the Emerald Tablet, with the upper V being incorporeal, and the lower corporeal. When these two are brought together, they form the letter X, i.e. the denarius or number of perfection, represented otherwise by the letters IO, as if one were saying “one circle,” or one revolution of a circle, this denary number being the Mercury of the Philosophers.

In addition, the Roman letter M equals the number 1,000, which is the ultimate perfection of all other numbers, and for Dorn denotes sulfur, which (containing fire, the fifth essence, and spirit) makes all things bear fruit.

If you join all these letters together, you get the word OVUM; the letter O signifies earth, for philosophical earth should be round and circular like the motion of the heavens; the letters VU represent water and air, and the final letter M represents fire (possibly because it resembles the astrological glyph for Aries ) — all combining to make the word “EGG.”

–Peter J. Forshaw, “The Early Alchemical Reception of John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica,” AMBIX, November, 2005, pg. 253.

Dr. John Dee, the Monas, and the Hebrew Alphabet as the Device of Divine Creation.

“…Dee was fascinated with the application of the exegetical techniques of cabbala to alchemy. He was well aware that each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical equivalence, and that the computation of these numbers in words and comparison with other significant words was believed to provide insights into various levels of reality. The fourth-century Sefer Ytzirah, or Jewish Book of Formation, gives a cosmogonic account of God engraving the universe with the twenty-two foundational letters of the Hebrew alphabet.” 

–Peter J. Forshaw, “The Early Alchemical Reception of John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica,” AMBIX, November, 2005, pg. 252 (6).

Frank Herbert on Prescience, Predestination and Paradox.

“…As in an Escher lithograph, I involved myself with recurrent themes that turn into paradox. The central paradox concerns the human vision of time. What about Paul’s gift of prescience–the Presbyterian fixation? For the Delphic Oracle to perform, it must entangle itself in a web of predestination. Yet predestination negates surprises and, in fact, sets up a mathematically enclosed universe whose limits are always inconsistent, always encountering the unprovable. It’s like a koan, a Zen mind breaker. It’s like the Cretan Epimenides saying, “All Cretans are liars.”

 Each limiting descriptive step you take drives your vision outward into a larger universe which is contained in still a larger universe ad infinitum, and in the smaller universes ad infinitum. No matter how finely you subdivide time and space, each tiny division contains infinity. 

But this could imply that you can cut across linear time, open it like a ripe fruit, and see consequential connections. You could be prescient, predict accurately. Predestination and paradox once more. 

The flaw must lie in our methods of description, in languages, in social networks of meaning, in moral structures, and in philosophies and religions–all of which convey implicit limits where no limits exist. Paul Muad’Dib, after all, says this time after time throughout Dune.” 

Frank Herbert, Dune 0: A Dune Genesis, pp. 3-4.

The Scholomance

This is pulled from a page on Jason Colavito’s site.

“In Dracula, Bram Stoker includes an intriguing allusion to a mysterious devil’s school in Transylvania: The Draculas, he wrote, “had dealings with the Evil One. They learned his secrets in the Scholomance, amongst the mountains over Lake Hermanstadt, where the devil claims the tenth scholar as his due.” The vampire himself was one of these scholars, a diabolic genius.”

At the Scholomance, an infernal college secreted amidst the Transylvanian mountains “over Lake Hermanstadt,” the Devil himself teaches the secrets of nature, the language of animals, and all imaginable magic spells and charms. “Only ten scholars are admitted at a time, and when the course of learning has expired and nine of them are released to return to their homes, the tenth scholar is detained by the devil as payment…”

http://www.jasoncolavito.com/scholomance-the-devils-school.html

Vistas: on Perspective

  “Lifted up the human eyes but yet they saw little farther than the beasts with downcast eyes; lifted up the human heart yet the heart could only hope for it could only see up to the sky in the daytime, and at night when it could see the stars it grew blind to close things for a man can scarcely see his own wife in the shadow of his house even when he can see stars so distant their light travels for a hundred lifetimes before it kisses the eyes of the man.”

Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Saga 4, Children of the Mind, 1996.

Consequences of Forbidden Fruit.

“Or it may mean that they are unfallen, having not yet eaten of the fruit of the forbidden tree.”

–Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Saga: Speaker for the Dead.

How would our consciousness differ, had we not eaten from the Forbidden Tree?

Did we learn values?

It is said that we learned right and wrong with one bite.

What would it be, to live with no knowledge of right and wrong? 

 

From Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

“Trying to overcome his disturbance, he grasped at the voice that he was losing, the life that was leaving him, the memory that was turning into a petrified polyp, and he spoke to her about the priestly destiny of Sanskrit, the scientific possibility of seeing the future showing through in time as one sees what is written on the back of a sheet of paper through the light, the necessity of deciphering the predictions so that they would not defeat themselves, and the Centuries of Nostradamus and the destruction of Cantabria predicted by Saint Milanus.”

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

H. P. Lovecraft on Human Limitations.

From an article on Jason Colavito’s site.

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midsts of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

 

-HP Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu,” Fiction, pg. 354. Quoted at:

http://www.jasoncolavito.com/lovecraft-and-scientology.html

Law of Correspondence 2.

 

Throw a rock into the ocean.

Your rock causes ripples. Those ripples interact with waves and tides and currents and other ripples to create a symphony of effects, which are influenced in invisible ways by an infinitude of other disturbances.

Chaos is a cacophony, yet there is order.

Everything interacts with everything else. Until entropy.

The consequences of your rock cannot all be hung around your neck. We generate our own world, we throw rocks, but so does everyone and everything else.

Because we can only imagine the changed molecules of wavelets breaking on distant shores as a result of our rock, does not mean that our rock had no impact. It did.

The infinite interactions of the ripples of our rock with all of the other events in the ocean may be unknowable for us, but it does not mean that they are unknowable.

There is an ocean. There is a rock. There are laws of the universe.

Except that the universe is not an ocean, and actions and thoughts, which are indistinguishable from one another, are not rocks.

And the laws of the universe include the caveat that all laws have their neutralizing opposite.

Including the law that there are no laws.

The Law of Correspondence.

 

I believe that serendipity is dictated by the law of correspondence.

Everything is connected to everything. There are no coincidences.

My therapist dismisses this as “magical thinking,” as though this is a criticism rather than an observation. I laugh at him.

Clark observed that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

O’Toole’s Corollary of Finagle’s Law posits that the perversity of the universe tends towards a maximum. For me, that about covers it.

Just because we subconsciously create the events of our lives does not mean that we are not responsible for them.

Dimly apprehending the implications of our experiences is just another revelation about the limitations of our thinking.

Because we create ourselves thinking about ourselves creating ourselves thinking about ourselves, we dance along a perpetual precipice.

What is vertigo, if not a glance into the abyss?

 

 

Einstein on God.

“I see a clock, but I cannot envision the clockmaker. The human mind is unable to conceive of the four dimensions, so how can it conceive of a God, before whom a thousand years and a thousand dimensions are as one?”

–Albert Einstein, Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931).

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein

The Liar Paradox.

An example of the liar paradox: “this sentence is false.”

This cannot be true, as the sentence would then be false.

Nor can it be false, for the sentence would then be true.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gödel’s_incompleteness_theorems

Borges on Nirvana.

“What does it mean to reach Nirvana? Simply that our acts no longer cast shadows.”

–Jorge Luis Borges, “Buddhism,” Seven Nights, 1984, pg. 60.

Borges on the doctrine of rebirth.

“In the West the idea has been propounded by various thinkers, above all by Pythagoras–who recognized the shield with which he had fought in the Trojan War, when he had another name.

In the tenth book of Plato’s Republic is the dream of Er, a soldier who watches the souls choose their fates before drinking in the river of Oblivion.

Agamemnon chooses to be an eagle, Orpheus a swan, and Odysseus–who once called himself Nobody–chooses to be the most modest, the most unknown of men.”

–Jorge Luis Borges, “Buddhism,” Seven Nights, 1984, pp. 55.

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