Within the Golden Dawn corpus, there is a slightly odd ritual called the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram. It is performed after a lesser ritual of the pentagram by adepts and various reasons have been provided for its existence mostly centred on an apparent need to neutralise any planetary energy before beginning a working.
Based on the drawing of two different triangles in different positions in the quarters it is the most used of a collection hexagrams. However, the root of the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram might provide us with some clues as to its use and why it is an important daily practice for the modern magician.
One of the founders of the Golden Dawn took the triangle diagrams from a drawing of the Key of Solomon Magic Circle where it is placed in the outside circle along with the highest magical names of power. The triangles are not explained, but it seems likely to me that that they are geomantic symbols. Two of them (in the South and West) are variations on the geomantic symbols for Carcer, the East is Fortuna Minor and the last, in the North is Conjuncto. Within the circle of Key Solomon, these geomantic symbols make a great deal of sense. In this case, their role is creating a ring of protection around the magician.
When looking at Geomantic figures, it is a good idea to see them as a recipe which fuses together to create a powerful effect. In this case, we have a strong Saturnian flavour figures which form a separation between the outside world and what is in the circle. Carcer means Prison and is attributed to Saturn. The northern hexagram is the geomantic opposite to Carcer. Conjuctio is assigned to the mutable Mercury and draws things together rather than separate them. However, Conjuctio
to unite the other hexagrams to mark off and seal the protective circle.
Fortuna Minor in the East is an odd addition to the magic circle. It represents the Sun when it is setting, in other words, the sun as an old man. It is a symbol of the beginning of the night, the light shining in the dark. It is both the beginning (Genesis counted the day beginning at Sunset) and the end which makes it a good symbol for the start of a magic circle. The image of the old man also works with the concept of this magic circle being Saturnian and marking the passage of time. The Sun, in any format, is always going to have some protective aspect against darkness, but in this case, it is the herald of the dark. However, the East is where the Sun rises, so this geomantic symbol is placed in a position of reversing that idea. It is the process of Time as the protector of order (Aion the Roman god of time was Lion faced) and the continuation of everything that was.
The writer of the Key of Solomon would have been aware of the associations of the east so placing a seemingly contrary symbol there had a purpose. The goal of the magic circle was to contain and protect. Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor, can be best associated with wheels, circles, and cycles are both cycles and associated with time. Fortuna Minor is the downward part of the wheel of fortune and the weakening of active positive solar force and he move to constrained negative solar force. With this force rising in the east the stage is set for a time of darkness and restriction… ruled by the magical image of an old man. Fire and water are imprisoned (carcer) and everything is joined together in a boundary of mercury (conjucto). All rather useful for a defensive magic circle, but when the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagramis done you create the antithesis of restriction. Time is shattered, the fire and the waters are liberated and boundaries and restriction are dissolved
Drawing of geomantic symbols is a creative art. Traditionally they could be drawn by joining up the dots of a geomantic figure, differently. However geomantic figures did not have to be constructed using lines. They could also use shapes and curls, the lines containing the dots could be made closer or further apart to make more geometrically balanced shapes. Golden Dawn members were shown a list of some of these Geomantic shapes, but it is clear that this was only a starter kit so that the students were aware of the possibilities.
Geomantic symbols are important because they represent planetary force manifesting in the earth. They bring down power to a level where the magician can directly use it.
The Golden Dawn added to the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram symbols by placing the points of each triangle onto the tree of life. One of the missing parts of Golden Dawn teaching about the Lesser hexagram was the critical placement of the solar symbol in the centre. So far, I have only seen this solar symbol in AO, but I doubt it, as NISI is rather early in AO history and did not seem to deviate much from early Golden Dawn teaching.
By doing this, Mathers provided an additional overlay of teaching which connected the triangles to the Tree of Life and showed how the planetary forces moved around Tiphareth. While this is useful to place the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagramin the context of the wider planetary hexes it has the function of enabling Mathers other innovation, the idea of creating a banishing and invoking an aspect to the hexagram. If you wanted to remove a force, you drew the triangles anti-clockwise from the planetary point and if you wanted to invoke you drew the towards the planetary symbol from the one before it. The second triangle is the mirror opposite of the first. This does not apply to the fourth hexagram where the triangles are flipped.
In the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram, the use of banishing versions of the geomantic symbols makes for an impressive symbolic system. Rather than providing a magical circle, which the invoking ritual would still do, it serves to break down existing restrictions and structures. Rather than allowing the constrictive, separate prisons of the double carcer symbols, it banishes any limitations which might be there. Rather than setting boundaries or uniting forces in the circle with the conjuncto symbol it is breaking them down or destroying all connections. The banishing of the sun at midnight is the removal of the element of time and the divine order. This would render the immediate environment chaotic.
So why is this important?
When you perform a magical act, you are creating a change in the status quo and challenging the natural Saturnian force. Some of these limitations will exist in the magician, others from society and on a broader scale the natural flow of the universe. By rendering the space antagonistic to Saturnian inertia you are giving your magic a chance.
But it is important to realise that with the lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram you are creating chaos which allows the universe to be reassembled in the image that the magician wishes. For some types of magic a lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram beforehand would not be a good idea. If you are trying to use magic to take control of an already chaotic situation, it would be unwise to banish Saturn because you are making matters worse.
There is an additional point which applies more when you have made magic your life. That is that continual attempts to change the universe, or the move to do something significant creates a backlash from those Saturn forces which seek to keep things the same. The myth of Saturn and Jupiter and the war of the Titans applies here. At a certain point in your magical career you will be a symbol of a force for change and like Jupiter be a target for those forces of inertia that insist that things stay the same.
What is worrying is very often you are unaware of it or might mistake the process for a spiritual test. What you will notice is that your magic does not work in the same way as it did, you might find it challenging to meet your spiritual contacts, or find yourself too tired to do magical work. It is similar to the inertia that someone has when starting the work. However, unlike that stage of your personal development, forcing yourself to be more disciplined does not resolve the matter, in fact, it might make it worse.
Performing a daily lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram would help prevent this backlash before it becomes too crippling, you will always face this particular issue (it is part of the natural way the universe works), but at least it will not harm you too much.
The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram becomes an important mini-ritual for Golden Dawn practitioners which has less to do with its planetary attributions and more to do with the forces of order and chaos and creating the right circumstances for your magic to work.
The lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram deserves to be performed in most workings (after the first lesser ritual of the pentagram) when the ceremony requires some change to an existing order. It should also be done regularly with the intention of counteracting those forces of normality which restrict evolution. If the latter is performed, it might be appropriate to call upon Jupiter for assistance.
How useful are the spirit lists for identifying what each spirit does? Where they are given descriptions, they are often at odds and we are left with trying to find references to the limited amounts of symbolism we are given. What I found was that some of this symbolism might be a little obscure.
Vepar is a demonic spirit whose name means “Boar.” Yet the spirit lists describe him appearing as a mermaid who is a “guide of the waters” and in charge of shipping weapons and infecting wounds. What does that have to do with a boar? How does infecting wounds, so they kill people in three days become part of the remit for a spirit who guides troop ships?
It is a little more possible to flesh out details when you apply decan meanings (particularly the GD ones which would give you Saturn in Taurus) but this is artificial and probably off track. The symbols do give us some clues and might point at the spirit’s source.
Searching for Vepar, I came across one source which I had not thought of. Roman Legion unit names and symbols. These unit symbols were often packed with symbols for many different reasons.
One of my researches though down the Vepar symbolism found the Legio X Fretensis (“Tenth Legion of the Strait”) was a legion of the Imperial Roman army. It got its name from a battle it won in the Strait of Messina although it also was part of the fleet that won the Battle of Actium.
This Roman legion had the symbols of the bull, a ship, the god Neptune, and a boar. The Bull might be because the unit was formed when the sun was in Taurus or because it was a symbol of Venus (who was Augustus’s family spirit).
Either way, we have the full set – sea, troop ship, boar, Taurus, and Venus. It also was part of the army which destroyed Jerusalem. It garrisoned the city for at least 200 years afterwards. It might be that the spirit lists had somehow demonised the Roman legion which helped destroy the “holy city” and because a symbol of a pagan boot on the throat of Jews and Christians living in the area. When Legio X Fretensis and the other Roman legions celebrated their victory they did so for three days, according to Josephus.
Hero, majestic, awe-inspiring son of Enlil, battering like a storm and roaring against the rebel lands!,
After you take your place, your immensity goes before you and behind you surging as a flood.
Lord Meclamta-eda inspiring terrifying awe, you magnificent strength does not release the hostile land, and your luxuriant horn pierces it and strikes it with weapons.
You who were sired by Enlil, the supreme god who destroyed the world with the Great flood and he has placed you at his right hand and he gives you your heroic strength.
Raising your head, you are authoritative with a ringing voice,
You know the divine powers of the gods and the powers of the Land.
You travel through heaven and organise all.
At your command the storm flattens the hostile land and you pour dust the dust of destruction.
You pour dust over evil for as long as it disobeys.
You are the great hero of the lands, you speak where no one speaks
You walk where no foot has gone.
You are like a vessel with seven spouts. The black-headed gather together at the front. You outpace the pigeons in your flight. You outpace the black and white locusts.
In the hushed streets, your inspiring awe covers the city.
The majestic and just are crowned by your might.
Yours is the south wind that none can withstand. At the place of the queen, the most precious place, you are the supreme deity!
Directing a noble gaze, you exercise kingship in the Land! For his father he has led the people from afar. He, Nergal, has brought them to the gates of the underworld.
The minister of the beautiful place in the underworld, Nincubur greeted Nergal: “You are the lord who has made the bandits come forth from the mountains and no part of a foreign land escapes your grasp. For Enlil you piled up Enlil’s enemies in a single day. Hating evil, for you Nergal are as a fire, you rise up in the lands where the sun rises.
You are Nergal son of Enlil Praising you is sweet.
Nergal was the Sumerian God associated with Mars, it is believed that after many centuries he became the inspiration for the Hebrew angel Michael . He was associated with the planet Mars and the colour red. His worship extended to the Hittites and Babylonia. This invocation is developed from an original prayer to him which can be found here. This God could be used to replace Michael in workings of defence and to see off evil.
Levels of magic are sometimes called levels of consciousness. They are important because they tell you a few key magic concepts and which magical current goes where.
Traditionally when you look a theosophical or Neoplatonic philosophy they became rather unnecessarily complicated so what follows below is a simplification.
God’s mind is split in three divisions there is the conscious, unconscious and matter. The matter level is what we see with our senses while the divine unconscious is depicted in concepts like the underworld. The conscious mind is the animating force which unites creation. It brings new ideas into being. This conscious mind is divided into four.
The sub-lunar level
The Sub-lunar level encompasses matter and the astral and the lowest level of the underworld. It is the realm the Goetic magician who uses magic drawn from nature, the elementals, the dead, terrestrial daemons. They also take power from the symbolism of the moon gods such as Hekate, Diana, or the Archangel Gabriel. These channel celestial and divine power into the material and astral realm.
Note the word Goetia does not just mean demonic magic. It is the most common form of magic as its function is to effect the material plane, the thoughts and minds of people, and the daemons of the Gods and work with the dead. Although many magicians claim to aspire to celestial, or divine forms of magic, the bulk of their work is Goetia.
It needs little in the way of purification. Sub-lunar magic is powered by elemental energy from below, or from “the moon.” Its rituals often feature calls to nature or the elements to bring about their goals. Its magic depends on some form of sacrifice to transmute one type of energy to another. It is enhanced by repetition and chanting. Its rituals are best conducted at night according to the waxing and waning of the moon. The magical use of pathworking or astral takes place at the highest aspect of the sub-lunar level where it can influence the celestial or divine level closer to their source.
The Celestial level
The Celestial level is the realm of the divine Gods or archangels. They have their foot on the lunar levels but are divided into seven broad categories as expressed by the planetary forces. The Celestial forces manifest in the upper parts of the sub-lunar level as the different masks of God. At this level they are closer to their energic and functional nature. It is their job to bring the divine ideas from above so that they can be properly experienced by Hekate in the sub-lunar realm. Magic at this level is the work of the Theurgist or god worker.
To achieve the levels of consciousness necessary the theurgist must separate their soul from matter and purify it so that it may respond to the energy of at least one of the seven energies found on this level. Rituals seeking to attain this level are called ascensions and through periods of attunment to the divine energy the theurgist starts to embody that divine energy.
Such rites might start on the sub-lunar level which provides a bedrock for an astral ascension. Symbolically this level is under the control of the Sun, although others see it under the rule of Jupiter or its equivalents such as YHVH. Note the purity required to attain this level is not the sort of purity demanded by religious abstinence, fasting or other taboos. These are symbolic of the true purity which is the adoption of a mindset which operates at the Celestial level and not at the material. The work of the Theurgist is to provide a conduit for these powers into the astral and then use them to ascend still higher into the Super-celestial level.
This realm is the closest that a human mind can go to entering the mind of the one thing. It is not something that can be managed all the time, but it can be glimpsed. This is a world without form from which the seeds of reality are formed. Attaining it requires another change of mindset from microcosmic to macrocosmic and it is the realm of the mystic. Stepping into this world requires the aid of the Celestial forces and further purity.
There is no ritual that will help, other than working at the Celestial level and having them aid you. As in the celestial level you should become more like the one mind to truly understand it. This level is symbolically controlled by the stars which in ancient times meant the fixed stars. Realistically they are far above that and is the place where the ideas come from. Stepping into this divine mind is what is meant by crossing the abyss.
Using this pattern, it is possible to work out what sort of things you should do to succeed in magic. You should work at the level of the magical target. If you are going to work at a goetic level do not pretend to work at a celestial level. You need the lunar powers and the powers of nature to make the ritual work. Use the daemons of the gods and follow the rules of the sub-lunar realm, focus on sacrifices and offerings. When you want to step out of that you get into the more abstract celestial levels then use the rituals to peak within a pathworking to the energy you want to experience. Then after a few decades of working with them you might be ready to have them lift you to other levels.
The purpose of this article is to produce a simple version of the neo-platonic structure behind the Chaldean Oracles so that they can be understood by modern magicians. I am trying to avoid making it too complex. One of the reasons that the Oracles have been set aside by many is because they been picked apart by academic philosophers rather than those who might have use for it. Hopefully this short article will explain the Oracles enough for a reader to piece together more of them for themselves.
The Chaldean Oracles are important in the Golden Dawn, making an appearance in two of the grade rituals. But other than Wynn Westcott, who wrote a rather important translation, they were ignored. In fact, cynics suggest that Samuel Mathers might have just inserted them into the rituals for theatrical effect. It is rather a pity, because its central philosophy appears closest to modern occultism (and indeed the Corpus Hermetica). Specifically it is saying that we are divine sparks who are existing in matter and the way to return is go back the way we came – by ascending. An example of this can be found in the Mithras Liturgy
Who wrote the Chaldean Oracles?
The Chaldean Oracles were a second century magical texts which we only have in fragments. They were believed to have been written by Julian the Theurgist who served in the Roman army during the philosopher Caesar Marcus Aurelius’ campaign against the Germans. He was attributed with various magical miracles. The Oracles themselves were a Greek commentary on a mystery-poem which was supposed to have originated in Babylonia. They are a mix of Neoplatonic elements and ideas and since we don’t have the original we must take the fragments where they were quoted and put them into an order. The most scholarly attempt at organising the oracles was carried out by
Wilhelm Kroll (who was from the town of Frankenstein in Germany) published an edition arranging all known fragments in order of subject. While this was not a reconstruction, it was the scholarly thing to do. Westcott had another bash at it.
The Chaldean Oracle’s universe
The Chaldean Oracles create a three-level universe which map to the spirit, soul and body of man. These levels are God which is a “trinity” like the three spheres on the top of the cabbalistic sphere of life. The next level is that of a world of formation which exists to bring the Gods’ ideas into being. The last level is matter or the plane of results.
Normally these words were drawn as three concentric circles. The first is the heavenly one of fire which was ruled by the spiritual sun. The Second was the sphere of the fixed stars and planets ruled by Helios and the third was ruled by the Moon and all that is underneath it.
This includes the sub-lunar realms and the underworld. The underworld is a lot darker and withdrawn from the sublunary world, and depending on whether you think life exists in and “underworld” this could be a fourth division. In fact, what Westcott translated as the “darkly splendid void” in the oracles was ruled by Hades as the opposite of the Heavenly world making it separate from the realm of Hekate.
These realms actually overlap each other with the higher levels taking place within the other shells.
Plato and the Chaldean Oracles
The Chaldean Oracles are based on a system of thought called Middle Platonism. This is a term which is given to those who followed Plato’s philosophy but had added a few ideas to it. Plato believed that God created the universe using archetypal ideas. These ideas are like seeds. If God wanted to create tables, he would have the idea of a table and it would flow down into creation and every table in the universe would be developed from this idea. Plato considered that God was perfect and Good.
The Middle Platonic period was during a difficult period of history where it was felt there was a need to explain why terrible things happened. Plutarch (45-120) felt that while god was pure and perfect, matter had been corrupted by evil which had been transformed into the world soul. To make this work the perfect God, had to be removed from matter but be allowed to comes to human aid by direct revelations (or through magic). He felt that the pagan gods were different aspects of this One Divine Being which worked through daemons.
The Chaldean Oracles
Like Plutarch, the Oracles start with a One Pure God which is called the Nous. This can be translated as Mind, but also awareness. This is important. If you have One
God and everything is created within it, then awareness defines it as being a God. My body might be made up of a nearly infinite number of atoms but I am unaware of any of them. The Oracle’s One Thing is aware of itself.
But the Oracles describe the One Thing or Over Mind as being separate from its creation. Unfortunately, it is not clear from the fragments how this possible. It might be that once it had created the television, it withdrew its conscious so that it could sit back and watch. It allowed a mirror version of itself was doing all the work within the television script, presumably with the One Thing played by Morgan Freeman .
The Chaldean Oracle’s Second Mind
This “second mind”, or God within the Chaldean Oracles’ script was more of a character and it had flaws. Perhaps these flaws were something that the First Mind wanted to sort out and maybe it was not as perfect as the Middle Platonists wanted. Either way there were some shadow written into the script for Morgan Freeman to play out.
This form of God was a creator. It would take Plato’s “ideas” and fling them about like lightning bolts until everything was created. In the solar system, he would be the Sun. In the Greek Pantheon, it would be Zeus.
Hekate in the Chaldean Oracles
But another divine character would need to be invented to act as a transformer to those divine ideas. This being was female and in the Oracles, is identified with Hekate, but could equally be Hera as the wife of Zeus.
Hekate takes the divine ideas and gives birth to them in matter. Matter is darker and heavier but it is also another level from the purer clearer ideas of the Second Mind. There are a huge number of forms which can be built from one Idea. Practically then the Goddess is doing the lion’s share of the work, at least on the level of matter.
We will see later that she also has another function. She rules the moon, and therefore everything that takes place below it. It is important that when we talk about planets we do not take this literally. These actions are not just taking place within our solar system but throughout the entire Universe.
Chaldean Oracle’s Daemons and other “lesser beings”
Like monotheistic religions it is assumed that the big three do not do all the donkey work themselves. They are assisted by a chain of lesser beings. These are the Iynges, the Connectors, The Teletrarchs and Messengers and Daemons. These are the workers in creation. The First level of beings are the Iynges and the Connectors.
Iynges are wheel shaped entities which are the powers behind the magic names that allow the magician to communicate with the big three. Each Iynge is the embodiment of that magical name which can be used to take control of an aspect of creation. In rituals these names were placed on a disk which as spun or turned to attract the Iynge to allow communication to take place. But this was physical act which symbolises the reality behind the fact that since the universe was created by words, a Iynge can be used to change some of the framework. Iynges have been completely forgotten by modern magic, but are the reason that repeated (circular) chanting is effective. They are a similar concept to the Egyptian Heka.
Connectors (synoches): are Ideas which hold together the universe. They have a protector function because they work together to create stability. Like their name suggests they unite different ideas. There is a link between the connectors and the rays of the sun. The Oracle uses the connectors to assist the soul as it embarks as they ascend on the path of return. They are the knots which hold together the net of creation. They are more abstract
The Chaldean Oracle’s second order of beings
Masters of Initiation (Teletarchs): For the magician, the Masters of Initiation are cosmic entities which uphold the universe, have a similar function to the Archons. While the archons rule over planetary spheres the Masters of Initiation rule over the three levels of creation and represent virtues flowing through creation. Faith is assigned to the Material Master of Initiation, Truth to the Ethereal Masters of Initiation and Love with the Heavenly Masters of Initiation. As their name suggests they initiate the magician to each sphere as they go up the ladder and do so by purification. The magician is expected to show some of their virtues to obtain an initiation in each sphere. The Masters of Initiation were gods. The heavenly one was the God Aion; the Ethereal was Helios or the Sun and the Material was Hekate/Selene or the Moon. Unlike the Archons, the Masters of Initiation were friendly and helpful to the magician.
The Chaldean Oracle’s Third Level of Beings
Messenger Daemons and Demons: Messengers (angels) and Daemons are pretty much what we expect them to be as this seems to have been added into unorthodox Christian thought. Good Daemons were like angels and had a similar function, unlike other ancient systems though evil daemons were very demonic and they existed only in the sub-lunar world. The Oracles have several flavours of evil demons which only exist in the sub-lunar world. They are the beings which are responsible for bringing evil into humanity and sickness. These demons are entirely elemental.
There are earth, water, air, and lunar demons. There were no fire demons as this element was considered too holy, but the role was taken by the moon which was the “fire” of the sub-lunar realm. Demons were dog-faced, because the moon was ruled by Hekate therefore they were hers.
These dogs had to be driven off if the magician was going to ascend as they represented the material aspects which held the person down.
Paganism and the Chaldean Oracles
Reading the Oracles, you are struck by a lack of pagan gods. In fact, were it not for various heresies you could easy apply all this to a Christian or Jewish religion. Pagan gods are named in the Oracles, but their names are not considered as important as what they do. It is a philosophy and as such could be applied to most religions. A trinity of Over Mind, Zeus and Hekate might not work like they do in the myths. Zeus did not create the world in Hesiod’s Theogony but paganism is not as dogmatic as more modern religion. Middle Platonism is telling us that the Gods are aspects of these three and some of these concepts can be seen to exist within Hesiod and Homer, even if it is through a more abstract reading.
The splendid palace of their fire sublime. O best of gods, blest daemon crown ‘d with fire
In 1866 the archaeologist, antiquities “looter,” Prof Athanasios Rhousopoulos dug up a marble ball which was 30 in diameter covered with magical signs similar to what can be seen in the Greek Magical Papyri.
The Helios-Apollo ball had been buried in the hill just outside the temple of Dionysus in Athens and was identified as a magical talisman to help someone win a combat . This was because the theatre of Dionysus had been adapted by the Romans to host gladiator fights and wild animal displays. Some of the symbols on the sphere look like fields or strategy plays. On the face of it there is only limited interest in such a talisman as there were rather a lot of this type.
The ball attracted my attention because it contains only time that the sigil of an Olympic spirit had been seen before the middle ages. The sigil of the sun spirit Och crowns a disk on the lower half of the sphere.
As part of the work I was doing on my coming book I wanted to see if it was possible to have a system which decoded the writing on the ball. If I am right, then the Helios-Apollo is not a talisman to help a gladiator team win but an important magical tool.
What the Helios-Apollo ball looks like
The Helios-Apollo ball is perfect marble sphere dominated by three circles. Inside the first circle is the image of a standing man with a solar halo. He is holding a three-forked staff which could be either a torch, or leaves. At his feet are two dogs, one has a halo. Attached to this is second disk which is crowned by the sigil of Och. Underneath it has five intersecting circles. The circles contain five words (from the furthest left circle ΑΙΘΑΕΡ, ΑΝΑΒΠΑ, ΑΝΝΙΑΕΥ, ΕΔΕΒΩΠ̣Ι, and ΑΠΙΟΒΙ). Three of the intersecting circles are marked (from left to right) ΕΥΠΑΡ̣ΕϹ, ΑΧΦΕΙ and ΑΘΕΛΑ. Underneath the circles are collections of letters arranged as words ΧΧΧ ΔΔΔΔ ΗΗΗΗ. Next to this is a diagram of what looks like semi-cicle flanked by two circles on poles. To the right there are three stylised arrows passing through rectangles. Underneath and completing this disk there are nine Λ “l’s” between brackets.
The third disk contains a triangle with the left angle having the letters ΑΔΑΞΑΞΒΕΝΒΕΝΒΛΩΘΝΩΜΑΖΟΜΟΗΡ, the second ΟΖΩΡΟΥΘΕΝΑΑΕΞΑΒΙΟΥΡΟ̣ΑΙΛΕΜΒΡΑΕΡ and the base of the triangle containing the letters ΧΧΧ ΠΠΠΠ ΦΦΦΦ̣Φ̣ΦΦ̣ ΔΔΔΔ ΛΛΛΛ ΛΛΛΛ
Outside these disks there is a large bearded serpent with the letters ΕΙΥ[․]ΛΛΜΕΜΨΟΥΡΦΙΒΡΟΦΕΥ up its body. Between the serpent and the sun is the phrase ΜΟΥΡΒΗ ΜΕΡΦΕΡΒΕΡ
There is lion with ΘΑ̣Δ̣ΕΙΗΤ on one foot, ΧΧΦΦΦΑ on the other inside ΠΔΔΔΔΔΗ. Between the serpent and the lion there is the phrase ΝΧΘΑΝΧΘΩΛΕΚΡΟ|ΑΝΟΚΛΕΡΦΡΟΕΡΑΙ | [․]ΙΕΩΕΥ|ΒΛΕΦΑΡΟΖΗ.
On top of the sphere there is the words ΙΞ̣ΙΔΕϹΙ. (ixidesi) [the Ϲ symbol should be the lunate sigma, which is pronounced as “s”]
The date of the Helios-Apollo ball
Due to the style of the lettering and similarities to other similar items it can be dated to the second to third century (CE). What is not clear as to when the sphere was buried as this may help explain its purpose.
There are variety of reasons why the gladiator talisman theory must be dismissed. While gladiator talismans exist, they are not this size, or weight. This ball was commissioned by someone who knew how to work marble who would have paid a great deal for it. The carvings, although not first class, would also have taken some skill. While it is not good enough for public display, it would have been fine in a wealthy person’s house.
The ball has no intention, or magical purpose on it. It also lacks any symbols or names of people who would have been the talisman’s target. As we will see most of the symbols are solar. There could be a lot of reasons to invoke Helios, or Apollo but winning a gladiatorial combat or some other game is not an obvious choice. Aries for sporting prowess, Hermes for Luck, even Zeus or Athena (particularly in Athens) or Jupiter. While you could say that a gladiator would benefit from solar force there is nothing to suggest that is the ball’s magical purpose. There are no indications of weapons, fighting or even names of gladiator teams.
If Delatte was correct and the ball was created take control of the land, it would not have known who it was to help win.
Gladiator talismans were normally made of lead, not marble, and contain some sort of dedication. PGM III (Lines 15-30) names the chariot driver he wants to win. Such talismans could be buried if you wanted to an attract underworld spirits, but normally they would have been put near a tomb or in a well or water supply.
The Theatre of Dionysus link
Most of the problems of working out the function of this ball comes from the fact that people seem to be fixated on the fact it was found near the Theatre of Dionysus on the Acropolis. To be fair I wasted a lot of time trying to see a Dionysus or even a theatre link to this ball.
There could be many reasons why the sphere was buried at that point and none of them are to do with the spheres purpose. If the magician had another use for the ball, it would have been important to work out what to do with it once that purpose was over. For example, if the ball was used to provide luck and prosperity to the magician’s home or family, what would happen to the ball when the magician died or his family line petered out. Someone would have had the job of getting rid of the ball and no one would have wanted to anger the Gods or Daemons on the ball by smashing it. As a magical object, it could not be offered to a temple so it was safer to everyone if it was given a decent burial on holy ground. The Acropolis and the Theatre was sacred ground
Helios or Helios-Apollo?
In the absence of a name identifying the god on the ball, in 1910 the archaeologist Armand Delatte identified the image of the God on one side of the ball as Helios. Helios was not often depicted standing still or on the ground. He is normally in a chariot or in movement. This image is of someone standing in an archway, which is presumably the vault of heaven.
The forked (three-torch) wand is a strange symbol. Hekate is associated with three torches and was a gatekeeper, and she was associated with Dogs. Cybil, who was often confused with Hekate, was often flanked by lions and these dogs could be badly drawn lions.
Dionysus was seen a sun god and like Apollo was closely connected to the arts. Dionysus was also connected with snakes and there is a bearded snake carved on the reverse of the ball. The three torches could simply be the god’s Thyrsus which was an ivy-covered staff of giant fennel one of the branches could be a pine cone it is hard to tell. The whip was associated with part of the Dionysian mysteries initiation.
However, there is a big problem with identification with Dionysus and that is that apart from the drawing the rest of the symbolism is connected to his brother Apollo. Dionysus’s own solar connection is tentative. As we will see later much of the magical disk is directly symbolic of Solar Apollo.
For while I thought the figure represented Apollo, after all he was the God of theatres and arts and the centre of the Muses. He also would have been happy with a solar halo. The “dogs” at his feet could easily be wolves. According to the Homeric Hymns Apollo also had a three-branched wand which he gave to Hermes after he promised never to steal his sheep.
He was also connected to snakes, having killed the Delphi Python. He is also shown as holding a whip to ride the chariot of the sun.
An interesting aspect of the cult at Delphi is that Apollo shared the site with his younger brother, Dionysus. Every year at the onset of winter, Apollo abandoned Delphi to spend three in the land of the Hyperboreans far to the north. In the meantime, the sanctuary on Parnassus was given over to the maenades (“the raving ones”) who worked themselves into a frenzy through wine and dance.
German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche pointed out that Dionysus and Apollo were two sides of the same force with Apollo being order and Dionysus chaos. The ancients might not have seen it that way, but the Delphian cult suggests that perhaps the two were the joys of spring and summer and the happiness which was possible during winter.
Once we reject the connection between the theatre and the ball we are left with the symbolism which works rather nicely with the composite Helios-Apollo. Drawings of him which were found in Pompey are rather like this one.
Delatte says that the two dogs are the key to understanding the figure. One has a halo and the other does not. This makes them constellations Canis Minor and Canis Major. The dog with the halo contains the magical star Sirius].
This sphere then represents the Sun at its height in the dog days of Summer.
The magic disk
The magic disk looks familiar to anyone who has looked at the Greek magical papyri. Most of the symbolism on it relates to Apollo and the sun. Above we have the solar symbol for the Olympic spirit of the Sun. What is interesting is that in context it mirrors the depiction of so called “three torches” on the picture of Helios Apollo on the front. It would be an interesting conjecture then to suggest that the symbol of “Och” is a stylised version of Apollo with his golden staff. Notice that it rests on a rectangle. The rectangle was an important Greek symbol as each temple was created from three of them.
Next there are five interlocking circles creating four vesica piscis. The number five is the number of the Greek letter epsilon which the Pythagoreans associated with Justice. In this sense, it means the balance of the universe and closely associated with Helios-Apollo (It was placed above his temple in Delphi). The connected to the five abilities of Apollo – light, truth, archery, prophecy, music, and healing.
The vesica piscis was a gate caused by the duality of different forces. In this case these five circles create four gates which means the “target” of the different powers were material.
The names written in the circles are either corrupted, completely misspelled, or something else. Even the word in the first sphere is Aithaer which is clearly meant to be the word Aether αἰθήρ (sky or gas). By playing around with the letters though it is possible to get words which are approximations. My linguistics expert friend thinks that they might be imported magic words from Semitic sources, and while it is possible that this would be the case in Alexandria, it is less likely to have been the situation in Athens.
Delatte is convinced that the five circles are the Pythagorean elements from earth on the right to Aether on the left. The intersections are what happens when you mix the elements. The second word which we can identify is the intersection of the first sphere which is the word ΕΥΠΑΡ̣ΕϹ which could be derived from the word “to boil” this would make sense if the next sphere is fire. However, that is labelled ΑΝΑΒΠΑ. This word could be based on the word meaning to “rise” which while being appropriate for mystical and magical states, and could cause a mystical boiling gives us little clues as to what the circles mean. Nor do they explain why the intersection on the circle which is connected to earth was not filled in.
The letters underneath the circle suggest to some form of solar mantra which might have been connected to the circles above. XXX is the English sound “Ch, Ch, Ch” ΔΔΔΔ is “ duh, duh, duh, duh and H,H,H,H,H would be five breathing outs [it could also be vibrated as either ē, and during this period it was vibrated ē]. They appear connected to the circles so the Aether circle is “Ch, Ch, Ch.” And the five breaths cover the third and fourth spheres. This is a consonant based magic word or mantra which is solar connected. If Delatte is correct and the words are connected to the elements, then it is probably chant/ mantra of ascension. This would explain why the earth is left blank because you are supposed to be ascending the levels and there is no effect moving from the “earth sphere” to what is presumably the water sphere.
The semi-circular structure could represent a repeat of the symbolism of the Apollo-Helios sphere. It has the arch of heaven with the four elements (made up of four sub sections) underneath. Aether would be represented by the dome or the space between it. The two spheres on poles are canis major and Minor.
The arrows are connected to Apollo and they are shown passing through a rectangle (or a temple) so they are effectively holy light. The reason that there are three of them is because that is the number associated with Apollo’s power.
The bottom of the sphere is another mantra made up of nine Λ lambdas, Ls which would be trilled Luh, Luh, Luh, Luh, Luh, Luh, Luh, Luh, Luh. It is possible that this line is the only reference to the moon on the ball as the brackets could be the different moon phases, particularly as there could be symbols of the moon carved underneath which have faded. Lambda is connected to Cancer which is ruled by the moon. But it also rules July which is the beginning of the summer months. Lambda is also symbol of unity (two lines linking to a single point) and light and can be identified it as a solar force. They could be related to numbers in which case they would be 30*9 or 270 which is three quarters of a circle.
The circle in the triangle
The circle is a symbol of creation, or god, or the universe. It is closely lined to the sun. While the triangle is a symbol of manifestation. An upward pointing triangle, like this one is associated with fire. So, this diagram shows us manifesting fire.
The magic words along the bottom are ΧΧΧ ΠΠΠΠ ΦΦΦΦ̣Φ̣ΦΦ̣ ΔΔΔΔ ΛΛΛΛ ΛΛΛΛ. It would have been pronounced Ch,Ch,Ch; Puh, Puh, Puh, Puh; Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh; Duh, Duh, Duh, Duh and Luh, Luh, Luh, Luh, Luh, Luh, Luh, Luh. The letters are elemental Aquarius (Air), Capricorn (Earth), Fire, Water, Cancer/Sun/Aether. Pedants might wonder why this mantra does not use the obvious elemental letters for the elements instead of χ and π namely ρ for air and γ for earth. It would be a good question. But one of the answers could be that the system might be suggesting something specific. It could be trying to avoid a fixed earth and wanting the more active cardinal version. The use of the fixed Aquarius sign for Air is a little more problematic for this theory.
In the ball’s first sphere the Ch,Ch,Ch was connected to Aether and yet here it is connected to air. Aether was originally associated with Air but over time had become to be associated with Spirit (and the Stoics also considered it a fiery spirit). It might have been that the associating with Aether on the first circle is incorrect.
The triangle’s base provides the names of power for the four elements. The weight of the mantra is slightly towards Phi (f,fire) because there are more letters connected to this element and lambdas (L, Aether).
The line on the left angle there is a word string which appears to be several words joined together.
ΑΔΑΞΑΞΒΕΝΒΕΝΒΛΩΘΝΩΜΑΖΟΜΟΗΡ (Adaxaxbenbenblothnomazomoer). Benben was one of the most potent symbols of ancient Egypt symbolizing the Primeval mound and housed the spirit of the sun god Ra. The word is ancient Egyptian. Adaxax might be a fusion of the Greek words ΑΔΑ means “virgin” or “untouched” and ΑΞΑΞ meaning “dry heat.” Blvthvm [but the word is blothnom] is Semitic, possibly corrupted Hebrew, the word appears to be connected to drying out through age although it could also be a root word for “lord. Azomoer, Azo is “dry.” This would mean that the mantra is about Ra, the Lord of the Benben drying out the waters of creation in the Ancient Egyptian myth.
ΟΖΩΡΟΥΘΕΝΑΑΕΞΑΒΙΟUΡΟ̣ΑΙΛΕΜΒΡΑΕΡ or Ozoroythenaaexabioyroailembraer
ΟΖΩΡ appears in some of the manuscripts as Osiris. My linguist friend suggest ΟΖΩΡΟΥΘΕΝΑ could be a mix between Osiris and Athena. Delattee thinks that that ΟΖΩΡΟΥΘΕΝ might mean the “Sun God Osiris. ΒΙΟU is used the name of the Sun God in the Berlin Papyri (1, 239) and in an invocation to Eros Horus in the Leiden Papyri. ΑΕΞΑΒ is Hebrew Azab which means “abandon” IOY could be the root of “cry” POA is “Pomegranate”, ΛΕΜΒΡ was a ship and AER was Air. It is an odd collection of words which could mean a lot of things. Pomegranate was a symbol of the underworld, but also a symbol of fertility, death and rebirth and hope all things which are symbolic of the sun. The idea of a boat travelling through the air also describes the sun, something which is connected more to Egypt as the Greeks saw the sun as being drawn in a chariot. So, what we have here then is the Sun god Osiris rising into the air on his boat into the air bringing power and fertility.
The serpent is coiled in a way to create figure eight in a least part of its body. The snake could represent the nine-starred constellation of Drago which was an important star system magically because it never sets below the horizon for many observers in the northern hemisphere.
It is probably the solar serpent Agathos Daimon (ἀγαθοδαίμων) who was a snake spirit of good fortune and the husband of Tyche. He was closely associated with the sun and, line in this ball he is associated with a lion or a solar halo.
Along his body are a string of names the first is ΝΧΘΑΝΧΘΩΛΕΚΡΟ (Nchthanchtholekro) the first three letters are transposed hebrew “tchn” which is probably Nechoth meaning “descending” or a corruption of vxn meaning “serpent” xna Anach “groaning” diwt Thwd “thanks”, or “choir” and ekro wrka “surely.” The letters anch could also be connected the to the Egyptian “akh” which means eternal life.
The next word is Anokderfroerai
|ΑΝΟΚΛΕΡΦΡΟΕΡΑΙ | [․]ΙΕΩΕΥ|ΒΛΕΦΑΡΟΖΗ
ΑΝΟΚ appears in the beginning of a lot of Magic Words and correspond to the copitc word meaning “I AM.” Homer describes Φηραί as a Holy City belonging to Agamemnon. During the period that the ball was made it was famous for its temple of Tyche and it had always been that way. Certainly “I am Fortune” makes sense in association with with Agathos Daimon
The damaged middle word could really be anything. ΒΛΕΦΑΡΟΖΗ: blefaroze. Blefaros is “eyelid” and “Paroce” could be a corruption of the world Φάρος which means “light-house” a pun mixing the words for sight, protection (as the Eye of Horus) and light. My linguist friend thinks this is rubbish as the word is actuallly pharoze as there is not the “s” for a Pharos. Equally that prevents it being the word Pharoah which would give the idea of the eye of the King.
The name at the top of sphere is the word ΙΞ̣ΙΔΕϹΙ. (Ixidesi) which is a word which does not appear to be in any dictionary in Greek and has too many vowels to be Hebrew. But it is pronounceable and I believe that given its position on the sphere and the fact it is by itself I think it is a name of the Daemon which was meant to reside in the sphere.
What can we tell about the magician who made the Helios-Apollo ball?
The ball uses the same mix of magical techniques that we see in Alexandria and in the Greek Magical Papyri. Hebrew, Egyptian and Greek words and ideas are mixed together to create a syncretic effect. The ball’s existence suggests that the magical techniques expressed in the Papyri were not restricted to Alexandria but were an influence in Greece too.
The price of the ball and the skill required to make it means that our magician was not poor or using it to perform some low brow form of magic. There are elements of innovation on the ball which suggest a system and a logic behind its creation. It emphasises geometric shapes more strongly than other magical objects which would suggest a neo-Pythagorean influence and the elemental connection could be a Stoic influence. The Stoics saw the Universe as God with fire and the principle of aether being the most important and then elements whose natural state is one of flux and transition, such as water, earth, and air; then the sun, the moon, the stars; and the universal existence in which all things are contained.
Our magician then would have been a rare thing. A wealthy, educated magician well-versed in two key philosophies of the day.
So what is the Helios-Apollo ball?
The Helios-Apollo ball is no temporary magical object. Carved in marble it is an object which is designed to last a lifetime. It is also not meant to be portable so it is expected to stay in one place and presumably be placed on a tripod – as it is now.
Covered with its solar symbols, if the Helios-Apollo ball were magically charged it would be pulsing with solar force. This solar force could have been used as a talisman for health, protection from evil, prosperity and happiness. Although fire is a key part of some of the symbolism that is secondary and indeed might have been an afterthought. The important fire symbolism, such as the torch and the lion are out outside the main three circles.
But the lack of an intention renders it largely useless for this purpose. If the Helios-Apollo ball were, as Delatte suggests, a talisman to bring luck and ward off evil to the land around the Theatre of Dionisius the papyri would have insisted that intention should have been carved on it.
A general broadcasting talisman against evil would make sense but we would expect to see symbols or words where evil or a threat were mentioned or vanquished. But the ball instead seems more focused on depicting the solar force at its strongest.
But similar concepts can be seen in PGM where a spirit is tied to an object. These magical assistants were tied to stones, and jewels where they would be easily called upon to assist magic. These were not often very big, but these spirit houses could be theoretically any size. If the magician wanted to attract a powerful spirit, or had a close connection to it, and they had the time and money then an expensive jewel, or, as in this case, a rather nice symbolic statue which represented the spirit would make sense.
If I am correct than the name of this spirit was carved into the crown of the sphere after it had been magically charged – ΙΞ̣ΙΔΕϹΙ. (Ixidesi). The magician would chant the spirits’ name as a part of an invocation and it would come from the Helios-Apollo ball to provide him with any assistance.
If it were a personal spirit, or Daemon it would be useless to anyone but the owner. In fact, on the owner’s death the Spirit is said to help them move on and become immortal. But there was always a risk that the spirit might remain in the stone or become angry or mischievous now that the magician had departed, or that the empty solar stone might attract a less positive solar daemon. For any number of these reasons the family or students of the magician would not want to keep it. But equally destroying it was not an option. The sphere had the image of Helios-Apollo on it and its destruction risked angering him. Burying it in sacred ground was the best option and the south side of the Acropolis would have been acceptable.
The Helios-Apollo ball also gives us some clues as to how it was magically created. It is likely that the references to the sun being between the greater and lesser dog stars suggest that it was created during the “dog days” of summer when the sun is at its hottest. The chants on the ball would have been used to attract the elemental forces which would have during the course of the ritual, or rituals, tuned the ball until it matched the frequency of the spirit which the magician hoped to attract. There might have been three main rituals (to match the three circles) and with the spirit arriving and telling the magician his name. This name would have been scratched into the Helios-Apollo ball and the spiritual assistant would take up residence.
The Helios-Apollo ball contains lots of magical subsystems, which can be adapted and used for other purposes and are hinted at in this article. That said, it would be interesting to find the ball in the Acropolis Museum and see if a solar spirit is sleeping within it.
Most people coming into the Golden Dawn talk about it being “light,” “nice” and “spiritual”, when actually the outer order is dark giant skip packed full of rubbish which the candidate has to sort out within five initiations.
Modern GD groups make a great deal of the outer order grades, and they are vital for the process that the system starts in a magician before they start to handle the heavy lifting magical work of the second order.
For a while I have wondered why it was that people join the Golden Dawn only to leave while in the outer order. Of course, you could argue that the “golden dawn was not for them” but actually those who leave often make right angled choices and go into much different fields or pack in the magical path completely. I have yet to see someone depart the Golden Dawn and head into an edgier form of magic. It is more likely that they will head to something safer which takes them away from their pain.
I have written before about how the different outer order initiations effect the candidate. This could be positive, but is more likely to be a negative reaction to the energies of the grade or the ritual. In the HOGD the 1=10 tended to hit a person’s finances, in MOAA the 2=9 always hits males who have problems with women, the 3=8 creates pressures on relationships etc. I have been told off by the leaders of some GD groups for saying this, because they claim that THEIR candidates only have wonderful experiences in the grades and I must be doing something wrong. After years of thinking about this I have decided that I probably am right and I am going to come out and say it.
The Outer Order is where candidates process their dark.
Everything about the outer order rituals is about light dawning in the dark, but if you read the script there is an awful lot of darkness. This effect is probably missed because most modern GD groups meet during the day and don’t memorise their scripts. However, the original GD (and Whare Ra) had most of its rituals conducted in semi-darkness – just enough so you did not trip over. Things like the tablets were lit by single candles and there was a dull light from the Dias.
Lots of lines within the rituals are about the dark. The 0=0 which is the template for the Outer Order theme talks of “coming forth from an abyss of darkness” the ritual pattern is of a journey through the dark lit by a single lamp. This is hardly the good and wholesome light which is much talked about. In the grades the same thing applies, much of the temple is in darkness most of the time. Diagrams, movements emerge from the Darkness and retreat backwards. The candidate and most of the officers wear black. Even the Hierophant’s red robe would also would also appear dark. In fact, this is a good reason that the diagrams were all black and white. You could not make out colour in the gloom. Only the white of the Hegemon, the religious impulse standards out with any certainty.
The candidate is told that the outer order is all about the black pillar and they are in the dark moving towards the light. This is where the rubbish I was talking about earlier comes in. Each of us has stuff within our unconscious which is baggage to be processed in our life. It is not meant to be overcome, it just is and we have to work out ways to live with it. As the light of the ritual shines in darkness it picks out those parts of ourselves which are either repressed or stunted by our life. These then shamble from the dark cave of our unconscious like shades from the underworld. Each grade picks out another monster (or several) to deal with. In most cases this is not a problem, but in other situations the monsters can be too scary. The candidate either breaks down, or runs away. This running is normally done by projection. It was the Order that produced this mess, therefore there must be something wrong with the leader, or the Order. If the group is good, then it provides the support for the candidate and helps them to come to terms with their dark. They are unable to do so the person flees into their own personal shadowlands, often loudly berating the group they have left. Note, I am not saying that leaving a group is a sign that you have failed to deal with your stuff. There are loads of reasons to leave a group ranging from the leader being the occult equivalent of Donald Trump, a con-person or a front for a terror group, but if the group was good BEFORE you took the grade then you need to look at what has changed your mind.
This process is terrifying, but still desirable for those who want to deal with the harder magic of the second order. The light which in the first order gently picks out monsters one at a time, whereas the second order flicks the lights on in the cave and activates many of the unconscious bugbears all at once. The light of the First Order is more like a bright sparkler than a defuse beam, it comes into the temple from the east and spirals clockwise three times as it lifts up the supernal triangle. It is the sort of light which looks bright only because everything else is dark. In the darkness we process.
The outer order candidate should see themselves like a racoon in a dumpster. Sure they wash (purify and consecrate) their paws, but they are still dealing with their rubbish and they should acknowledge that is what they are fearlessly doing. One of the most important lines in the 0=0 is that you should not give into fear. In your personal dark you learn to be the best version of yourself possible. If you tremble at the monsters in the cave, or get turned to stone by your personal medusas you will have no chance when you meet the gods, angels and demons of the second order. For this reason, seeing and comprehending that light which flashes through the outer order and the demons it reveals is all part of the process.
The dark of the outer order is a two-way street. When officers take roles in an outer order ritual, their darkness also comes out. Many Golden Dawn hierophants convinced by the fact that they “are only using light” and projecting an air of benign goodness should realise that when the light comes from the East into the place of darkness it comes through them and projects their darkness on the whole temple. Their shadows can become projected onto the candidate and indeed the whole temple. There is one group which has a “lineage” of teachers using their power to sleep with their students going back at least four lines and growing. Sure the ritual has safeguards against this in the form of the purification and consecration, but there are limits. Often those who fail to acknowledge their own darkness start to change in response to the light. People who start good, or at least having the right intentions, end up becoming twisted ego-maniacs, others, like Christina Stoddard become progressively crazy and paranoid.
All this is because the outer order rituals are dark ride through the underworld which must be navigated before the White Pillar of the second order can be touched. In the outer order, the candidate then has to wear their darkness with pride.
A magician who would approach the throne of the Most High, must perfect a temple on the earth which has its roots in the underworld and the roof below the moon. This is the purpose of a magical life. You are not trapped in earth, you were sent. You are not imprisoned by life; it is your mission. The fates have spun their net for you and you must use it to be the best you can.
One does not reject or demolish the temple that is built by the One Thing, to spit in the eyes of his Aeons and expect it to be pleased to see you.
One of the great sins of the Gnostics, which was picked up by some flavours of Christianity, and from there into 19th century esotericism, is a flawed belief that matter is evil. Ernest Butler called this the Manichaean heresy. Manichaeism was a religion in which the world was a war zone between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light whence it came.
You can see how such an idea became popular with occultists who make a big deal about aspiring to the light, god and heaven. To be fair to the tradition too, Butler did use the general definition of the Manichaeism to describe those who see black and white as absolutes and equate matter with evil.
What becomes important is that the terrestrial gods, angels, spirits and the underworld all fit into those sorts of things that people are supposed to be escaping from.
One of the more snooty aspects of “esoteric masonic” systems, particularly of Rosicrucianism, is to adopt a similar worldview. The idea being that instead of using terrestrial gods for magic, they use “higher” gods for something called “theurgy.”
Theurgy is supposed to be a higher and spiritual process where a person invokes the highest divine being and then merges with it. Magic on the other hand is dismissed as dealing with those “tainted forces” of matter and gods which are nothing more than demons.
However this concept of Theurgy, which is a legitimate magical technique, was developed by the Neo-platonists and rather than dismissing life and the earth it was pretty much life affirming.
Iamblichus and Proclus the late fifth century philosophers who intellectualised the system as a spiritual technique felt that it was vital that, while we are alive, we honour the terrestrial gods and spirits. Their students were instructed to be devoted followers of the gods and attend religious functions. Theurgy was used to contact these beings as much as it was used to contact the much higher ones.
As such, a true Theurgist has to honour the material world and not see it as something evil where divine sparks have become trapped.
Hatred of the material world, along with a fear of the underworld, has unbalanced the magical systems of the west. Instead of providing a base for a person to remember their divine aspects, it has become a cesspit to be escaped from. Instead of honouring those connections with our ancestors in the underworld, we attempt to disconnect ourselves with the same enthusiasm as avoiding a Christmas dinner with the in-laws.
As a result, we have lost the thrusting base to ascend to the heavens and literally trip over our own spiritual feet.
The One Thing manifested the universe out of itself. It did not make a mistake; it did so because it wanted understand itself. Our consciousness is part of that reflection and helping it to understand. If we think our universe is evil, nasty and something to be fled from; then we are saying that the One Thing that created it is evil, nasty and something from which we need to flee. It is no wonder then we cannot reach the throne of the most high, when its feet are in the matter which we see as a mistake.
Modern magic is starting to realise its mistake. Realms such as the underworld and humanity’s relationship with matter are starting to be explored and integrated back into magic. In the Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea students are expected to work with the underworld forces and explore matter. Rather than reviling matter, we attempt to work with it as co-creators of the One Thing.
We are not the only ones. Writers like Jake Stratton-Kent has been looking at the real meaning of the Goetia and has found that work so spiritually satisfying he has not felt the need to propel himself out into the super-celestial realm. Aaron Leitch has been integrating underworld aspects into his Solomonic works. Josephine McCarthy has been working on a similar approach in the British tradition.
All this is a tipping point for serious magic. The underworld and sub-lunar magic is becoming something which, after centuries, is returning to the mainstream current. It is already being dismissed as a black magic revival by those desperate to keep the Manichaean heresy alive, but it is not. In fact is the complete opposite. One of the more stupid aspects of 19th and 20th century magic was the idea that there was such a thing as left hand and right hand paths of magic. Followers of the Golden Dawn magical system should tell you that the concept of a left hand or a right hand way of working is always going to destroy you (have a look at the 1=10 ritual if you want to see what I mean). Sure there are extremes in the universe but to quote Babylon Five: “ I take the place that has been prepared for me. I am Grey. I stand between the candle and the star. We are Grey. We stand between the darkness and the light.”
There are those who like to see the Golden Dawn as all sweetness and LVX and assume that it would never touch those dark regions of the unconscious where demons and other nasty beings like hang out.
Of course, since Christianity arrived and told the pagans that their terrestrial gods were all demonic and the underworld was hell, it has made life a little more black and white.
However encoded into the Golden Dawn 0=0 is a formula which suggests that that particular ritual is a journey to the underworld of archetypal proportions.
Your standard visit to the underworld, at least while you are alive, is to rescue something, a princess or the love of your life, and get away still alive without looking back. Of course, if you are dead it is another matter but the rules of what you meet are similar.
When the candidate enters a Golden Dawn temple they are hoodwinked which mimics death. The first thing they meet is a guardian with the head of a dog. This is of course Anubis the god of the dead, but he is also a version of Cerberus the dog-headed guardian of Hades. In the Golden Dawn the candidate is called “Child of Earth” which is actually a part title from the Orphic Mysteries. In the Orphic Mysteries a candidate refers to themselves as a Child of the Earth and the Starry Heavens when they enter the Underworld. In the Stella Matutina the underworld references were even more obvious with the candidate being told that the “mother of darkness has blinded him with her hair” and the “father of darkness hath hidden him under his wings.” The mother of darkness was Prosephone and the father of Darkness was Pluto. It is a reference to the candidate being dead,
In fact, the Golden Dawn Z documents make references to this part of the ritual being the closest that the candidate is to physical death (while being still alive) and this being similar to the Alchemical idea of Negredo.
Now the candidate is placed in the Temple of Maat which is part of the Egyptian underworld to be judged by the 42 daemons of Justice. Underworld judgement after death is a common thing in most major religions. That which is bad is cast down deeper into “hell” or Tartarus and that which is good is allowed to continue.
The candidate, still blind, is placed in the northern part of the temple, the place of “forgetfulness, dumbness and necessity and of the greatest symbolical darkness.” These are references to the waters of the underworld in the orphic mysteries where the candidate is lead to two fountains. One of these is said to make him forget his past life and will render him dull so that he is completely happy in the Underworld and does not try to sneak back. Initiates are told not to drink these waters.
Then in this place he is reminded of his mission in the Underworld.
The voice of my undying and secret soul said unto me: ‘Let me enter the path of darkness and maybe there shall I find the light. I am the only being in an abyss of darkness. I came from an abyss of darkness before I was born and the silence of a primal sleep. And the voice of ages said unto my soul: ‘I am he who creates in darkness, the light shines in darkness and yet the darkness cannot overcome it’.
The mission then is to find his Higher Self, the Light, in the Darkness of the Underworld. So he journeys through the Underworld meeting both Horus/Mars of the Underworld and Osiris Pluto and then finally coming to the centre. In the Centre he is united with his Higher Self and find the “Light in the Darkness” attempts to return to the material world.
What is important, and often overlooked by Golden Dawn types, is that the candidate is not instructed in the Light, but the darkness. In otherwords he has to learn things from the Underworld, which is the unconscious. It is not enough to think, “I am heaven bound” firstly you have to deal with your shit.
The next thing is that you have to deal with the terrestrial world (in the elemental grades) and only then can you train for real magic and the path becomes a spiritual quest.
The Golden Dawn is telling us that we must not see our path as an escape from our Underworld, but we must enter into it to find the light. We can’t escape from the world but must give reverence to the terrestrial gods before we can consider any assents.
The beginning of this process is not a step into the light but into darkness.
Gone from mystery into mystery
Gone from daylight into night
Another step deeper into darkness
Closer to the light.
(Closer to the Light)
All this explains why there is psychological fall out from our 0=0 experiences. You always get Thor in your Netherworld when you play with the darkness.
The Hermetic Tablet is a quarterly Journal of Western Ritual
Magic where people, from all traditions, share their experiences. Some of the
contributors are well known names in the occult field, while others are just
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