The Summer Solstice is a Holy Day in Magickal traditions, and it starts at Sunset the night before. So tonight at twilight, think about what you’d like to happen in your life this summer, and start a candle.
Right now, the North pole is maximally tilted (23.44°) toward the Sun, ergo the Sun will reach its highest declination from the perspective of the Northern Hemisphere and we will consequently experience the longest exposure to its light (14.25 hrs of daylight in Los Angeles; 15.05 hrs in NYC).
More properly called the Estival Solstice (estival, from the Latin æstus, meaning “heat”; solstice, from the Latin sol, meaning “Sun” and sistere, meaning “to stand still”), this terrestrially-significant astronomical event is celebrated by feasts, festivals, rituals and holidays the world over.
The language of symbols through the medium of alchemy is one of the oldest forms of communication on our planet, and my absolute favorite. I love the simplicity and history encompassed in a single image. I stumbled across this fantastic retrospective by Guity Novin today. She is a really interesting artist of Iranian descent, and has an interesting perspective on the art of alchemy. It’s long, but I have to share it with you.
Born on January 17, 1706, Benjamin Franklin, at 22 years old, had written the epitaph that was to adorn his future tomb. Forgotten, it doesn’t appear on his grave, but we know the text:
′′The body of Benjamin Franklin, a printer, like the cover of an old book with striped contents of its leaves, text and gilding, rests here in a pasture for worms. But the book will not be lost because, as he believes, it will appear once again in a new edition; more elegant, revised and corrected by the author.”
Benjamin Franklin’s body rests in Christ Church Cemetery in Philadelphia
“A remarkable example of classical Egyptian philosophy is found in a 3,200-year-old text named “The Immortality of Writers.” This skeptical, rationalistic, and revolutionary manuscript was discovered during excavations in the 1920s, in the ancient scribal village of Deir El-Medina, across the Nile from Luxor, some 400 miles up the river from Cairo. Fittingly, this intellectual village was originally known as Set Maat: “Place of Truth.”
The paper containing the twenty horizontal lines of “The Immortality of Writers” is divided into sections by rubrication. They seem composed to be read aloud, as the Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson points out in his new Penguin Books translation.
The existential message of the “The Immortality of Writers,” written by Irsesh¹, echoes through the centuries and millennia, over sand dunes and oceans, before finally reaching us now in the 21st century. Thinking and writing is more important than religion, materialism, and – even more controversial – one own’s family:
Man perishes; his corpse turns to dust; all his relatives return to the earth. But writings make him remembered in the mouth of the reader. A book is more effective than a well-built house or a tomb-chapel, better than an established villa or a stela in the temple!
This 12th BCE century Ramesside papyrus, from the 19–20th dynasty, is the oldest and most authoritative excuse philosophers and intellectuals of today have for prioritizing reading and writing over securing offspring or respecting priests. Because “the writer is chief.”
For the last decades, the only copy of Irsesh’s manuscript, formally known as “Chester Beatty IV” (EA 10684, verso) and also named “Be a Writer”, has been stored at the British Museum in London. In 1997, it was removed from public display. New translations from hieratic – Egypt’s ancient cursive writing system – have made the text accessible to the public. Yet “The Immortality of Writers” and other significant Egyptian philosophical manuscripts await detailed scrutiny by dedicated philosophers.
After all, Irsesh’s text is symptomatic of the era during and following the revolutionary pharaoh Akhenaten (died 1336 before the common era, BCE) and his wife Nefertiti (1370–1330 BCE). These two New Kingdom rulers abandoned Egypt’s traditional polytheistic religion and introduced a rather monotheistic worship of the Sun, Aten, instead. Shortly after Nefertiti’s death, their successors returned to polytheism.
The ideological upheavals in Egypt caused new ideas and philosophy to flourish. In the tomb of Neferhotep (ca. 1300 BCE) three different perspectives on death are presented in the “Harpist’s Song,” a text initially stating that the ancient tombs were “extolling life on earth and belittling the region of the dead.” A skeptical view on the after-life is also witnessed in the tomb-chapel of Paatenemheb at Saqqara, dating from the era of Akhenaten. This harpist text argues in a rather hedonistic way, a thousand years prior to Epicurus:
One of the most vibrant eras in Egyptian history was this period spanning the two hundred years from Akhenaten and Nefertiti in the mid-14th century until the economic and political decline from the mid-12th century BCE; ancient Egypt’s last “Golden Era.” We can discover this in the love poetry of the middle-class village Deir El-Medina. Based on a reading of these poems from ordinary women and men, Renate Fellinger concludes that the “fairly equally distributed freedom of speech, action and movement as reflected in the poems may suggest that gender roles were perceived as equal.”
After all, women owned property, could buy land, and were equal to men in the ancient Egyptian court. One evidence of this, is the will – dated November 1147 BCE – of the woman Naunakht, who described herself as “a free woman of the land of Pharaoh.” She owned an impressive library of papyri; including the Dream Book, the world’s oldest interpretations of dreams. In Naunakht’s will, presented for a court of fourteen witnesses, she disinherits three of her adult children as they did not care enough for her. One of the disinherited was her workman son; she also rejected to give him any property from her first husband.
Furthermore, one of the most powerful pharaohs in Egyptian history was the woman Hatshepsut (1507–1458 BCE) of the 18th Dynasty. While the female pharaoh Twoseret (d. 1189 BCE) was the last ruler of the 19th Dynasty, as Kara Cooney attests in her new book When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt.
When it comes to writing, the Egyptian texts are “often consciously intellectual, making abundant use of wordplay through homophones and homonyms, in which the Egyptian language is particularly rich,” as Wilkinson underscores. Metaphors, idioms, and epigrammatic utterances are some of the other literary techniques applied.
Hence, it should come as no surprise that not only the oldest but also some of the most original ancient philosophical texts in writing stem from Egypt. A similar point was also made by the foremost of the Greek philosophers: Isocrates (b. 436 BCE) states, in Busiris, that “all men agree the Egyptians are the healthiest and most long of life among men; and then for the soul they introduced philosophy’s training…”
Isocrates was 16 years Plato’s senior, a founder of the rhetoric school in Athens, and he declared that Greeks writers traveled to Egypt to seek knowledge. One of them was Pythagoras of Samos who “was first to bring to the Greeks all philosophy.”
These Greek descriptions of Egypt have often been disregarded in the past couple of hundred years. But the scholarship of the 21st century has opened up a new possibility: the founding Greek word philosophos, lover of wisdom, is itself a borrowing from and translation of the Egyptian concept mer-rekh (mr-rḫ) which literally means “lover of wisdom,” or knowledge.
In 2005, The Book of Thoth was finally collected and translated into English. This text originates partly from the 12th century BCE, as Egyptologist Joachim Quack has pointed out. And in this book, “the-one-who-loves-knowledge” (mer-rekh) is a central figure. The philosopher (mer-rekh) is the scholar who desires to know the wisdom of Thoth, the author of books.
The Greek respect for the Egyptian love of wisdom, philosophy, is a context that can explain Plato’s statement in Phaedrus that the Egyptian Thoth “invented numbers and arithmetic… and, most important of all, letters.” This also makes it easier to understand Socrates, who in Plato’s Timaeus quotes the ancient Egyptian wise men when the law-giver Solon travels to Egypt to learn: “O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children.”
In 2018, projects are under way to translate several ancient Egyptian texts for the first time. Yet we already have a wide variety of genres to choose from in order to study the manuscripts from a philosophical perspective:
The many maxims in “The Teaching of Ptahhotep”, the earliest preserved manuscript of this vizier of the fifth dynasty is from the 19th century BCE, in which he also argues that you should “follow your heart”; “The Teaching of Ani”, written by a humble middle-class scribe in the 13th century BCE, which gives advice to the ordinary man; “The Satire of the Trades” by Khety, who tries to convince his son Pepy to “love books more than your mother” as there is nothing “on earth” like being a scribe; the masterpiece “The Dispute Between a Man and His Ba” of the 19th century BCE – in which a man laments “the misery of life,” while his ba (personality/soul) replies that life is good, that he should rather “ponder life” as it is a burial that is miserable – recently discussed by Peter Adamson and Chike Jeffers in their “Africana Philosophy” podcast series.
Or we can read Amennakht (active in 1170–1140 BCE), the leading intellectual of the scribal town Deir El-Medina, whose teaching states that “it is good to finish school, better than the smell of lotus blossoms in summer.”
“Arriving in Egypt, Pythagoras tried to gain entry into the Mystery Schools of that country. He applied again and again, but he was told that unless he goes through a particular training of fasting and breathing, he cannot be allowed to enter the school. Pythagoras is reported to have said, ” I have come for knowledge, not any sort of discipline.”
But the school authorities said,” we cannot give you knowledge unless you are different. And really, we are not interested in knowledge at all, we are interested in actual experience. No knowledge is knowledge unless it is lived and experienced. So you will have to go on a 40 day fast, continuously breathing in a certain manner, with a certain awareness on certain points.” After 40 days of fasting and breathing, aware, attentive, he was allowed to enter the school at Diospolis.
It is said that Pythagoras said, ”You are not allowing Pythagoras in. I am a different man, I am reborn. You were right and I was wrong, because then my whole standpoint was intellectual. Through this purification, my center of being has changed. Before this training I could only understand through the intellect, through the head. Now I can feel. Now truth is not a concept to me, but a life.”
A section from the English illustration known as the Ripley Scroll, based on a15th century original.
I just finished watching Season 2 of “Lodge 49” on AMC, and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in bettering yourself or walking a spiritual path. It’s a great reflection on what a spiritual community or occult lodge can do for people. I am currently involved with two lodges, and I found this show to be a great representation of my experiences there!
“Lodge 49 wins acclaim for its dreamily languid and unfolding plot and compelling characters, yet we never hear of it described as an occult themed show, which it most definitely is. This is most likely because of the emphasis of the weird over that of the showy and supernatural, but make no mistake, Lodge 49 captures the magical life beautifully. This is not the occult as wished for, this is the occult as it really is. In fact, I believe it is the most accurate occult show on television. This show is about people and relationships and finding the wonder that lies just beyond.
For several years now, we have been hearing about the meteoric rise of interest in the occult and witchcraft as people grasp to re-enchant a dark world. The rise in supernaturally themed media such as Strange Angel, Good Omens, Sabrina the Teenage Witch or American Gods both mirrors and supports this trend. In those shows, however, we see cosmic battles of good and evil being fought through fiery and dramatic magic.
Big personalities like Aleister Crowley or compelling underdogs like Sabrina manipulate their trials through spells, sorcery and sometimes inherited power, suggesting that magicians are, in fact, a breed apart. But anyone who has ever spent any time around committed occultists and witches knows that everyday magic looks nothing like that. Lodge 49 is quiet, eccentric, and deeply authentic. I know more than my fair share of people who belong to occult orders, and they all feel as though this show was written just for them. Obviously, that is a rather selective demographic, so the show’s success should tell us something about both the exquisite storytelling of the creators and cast of Lodge 49 and the eternal pull of the magical quest. When it comes to portraying the genuine occult experience and the cultivation of an enchanted life, Lodge 49 is the real deal.”
Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus depicted on the floor of Siena’s Duomo (Tuscany, Italy). by Giovanni di Stefano, 1488.
“That that which is Above is like that which is Below
and that which is Below is like that which is Above,
to accomplish the Miracle of Unity.”
– The Emerald Tablet
I’ve been encountering this ancient magician in some of my studies lately, and when I saw this image I thought I’d share it here. Astrology, alchemy and theosophy i.e. “Hermeticism” is based on the writings of the ancient figure Hermes Trismegistus (the Thrice Great Hermes). He is seen as the writer of Hermetic laws, founder of mystery schools and the creator of alchemy as a vehicle of human transformation. I’ve included the Kybalion’s Seven Hermetic Principles here from wiki:
Principle of Mentalism
The Principle of Mentalism embodies the idea that “All is Mind.” Everything that happens has to be a result of a mental state which precedes it. For anything to exist, thoughts had to form first, which then form physical reality or manifestation. “Your thoughts are seeds, plant positive seeds in your mind garden.”
Principle of Correspondence
The Principle of Correspondence expresses the idea that there is always a correspondence between the laws of phenomena of the various “planes” of being and life. As above, so below; as below, so above. This principle states that there is a harmony which can be made, agreement and correspondence between these planes, delineated as:
The Great Physical Plane
The Great Mental Plane
The Great Spiritual Plane
Principle of Vibration
This expounds the idea that motion is manifest in everything in the Universe, that nothing rests, and everything moves, vibrates and circles. This principle explains that the distinction between manifestations of Matter, Energy, Mind, and even Spirit, are the result of only different “vibrations”. The higher a person is on the scale, the higher the rate of vibration will be. Here, The All is said to be at an infinite level of vibration, almost to the point of being at rest. There are said to be millions upon millions of varying degrees between the highest level, The All, and the objects of the lowest vibration.
Mental Transmutation is described as the practical application of this principle. To change one’s mental state is to change vibration. One may do this by an effort of Will, by means of deliberately “fixing the attention” upon a more desirable state.
Principle of Polarity
The Principle of Polarity embodies the idea that everything is dual, everything has two poles, and everything has its opposite. All manifested things have two sides, two aspects, or two poles. Everything “is” and “isn’t” at the same time, all truths are but half truths and every truth is half false, there are two sides to everything, opposites are identical in nature yet different in degree, extremes meet, and all paradoxes may be reconciled.
Principle of Rhythm
The Principle of Rhythm expresses the idea that in everything there is manifested a measured motion, a to and from, a flow and inflow, a swing backward and forward, a pendulum-like movement. There is rhythm between every pair of opposites, or poles, and is closely related to the Principle of Polarity. It can be seen that this Principle enables transition from one pole to the other, and not necessarily poles of extreme opposites.
Principle of Cause and Effect
It explains that there is a cause for every effect, and an effect for every cause. It also states that there is no such thing as chance, that chance is merely a term indicating extant causes not recognized or perceived. The Principle is clarified in the chapter Causation.
Principle of Gender
The Principle of Gender embodies the idea that gender is manifested in everything. The authors state that this does not relate explicitly to the commonly understood notion of sex, but rather “… to beget; to procreate, to generate, to create, or to produce…” in general. Gender manifests itself on all planes as the Feminine and Masculine principles.
Mental Gender is described as a Hermetic concept which relates to the feminine and masculine principles. It does not refer to someone’s physical sex, nor does it suggest that someone of a certain sex necessarily has a matching mental gender. Ideally, one wants to have a balanced mental gender.
The concept put forth in The Kybalion states that gender exists on all planes of existence (Physical, Mental and Spiritual), and represents different aspects on different planes. Everything and everyone contains these two elements or principles.
The Feminine principle is always in the direction of receiving impressions, and has a much more varied field of operation than the Masculine. The Feminine conducts the work of generating new thoughts, concepts and ideas, including the work of the imagination.
The Masculine principle is always in the direction of giving out or expressing, and contents itself with the “Will” in its varied phases.
Regarding the image:
“Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus depicted on the floor of Siena’s Duomo (Tuscany, Italy). This work is attributed to Giovanni di Stefano and dates back to 1488.
The title block below Hermes’ feet calls him “Hermis Mercurius Trimegistus contemporaneus Moysi” (Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus, a contemporary of Moses). The two men to whom Hermes gives a book are probably the Western and Eastern sages and are represented as receiving the divine gnosis from Hermes. On the sign against which Hermes is leaning we can read: “Deus omnium creator secum Deum fecit visibilem et hunc fecit primum et solum quo oblectatus est et valde amavit proprium filium qui appellatur Sanctum Verbum” (And God, creator of all things, from Himself generated a visible God and this was the first and only in whom He was delighted and strongly loved His own Son who is called Holy Word). This quotation mixes together several passages from the Corpus Hermeticum, and especially the first book of it, called “Pimander”, which had been translated into Latin by Marsilio Ficino. On the pages of the book we can read: “suscipite o licteras et leges egiptii” (Egyptians, receive the letters and the laws!), which refers to Hermes’ role as inventor of writing, the arts, and legislation.”
A red-faced sun rises above a city; stunted trees stand in the foreground; representing either the culmination of the alchemical Great Work or the star of hope that inspires the alchemist through his tribulation.
Release any thought, behavior or idea that you’ve picked up on your journey, so you can uncover the pure gold of the spirit within you.
“THE FOUR ALCHEMICAL RULES.
1. Follow (your) Nature.
It is useless to seek for the sun by the light of a candle.
2. First know; then act.
Real knowledge exists in the triangle composed of seeing, feeling, and understanding.
3. Use no vulgar processes.
Use only one vessel, one fire, one instrument.
The door to success lies in the unity of will and purpose and the proper adaptation of the means to the end. There are many roads leading to the celestial center. He who follows the chosen path may succeed, while he who attempts to walk on many paths will be delayed.
4. Keep the fire constantly burning.
If the molten metals are allowed to cool off before they are transformed into higher ones, they will become hard again, and the whole process will have to be recommenced from the beginning. Use the inextinguishable lamp. Its light will not go out unless it is driven away by force.
THE FIVE THINGS NECESSARY TO OBSERVE IN THE PRACTICE OF ALCHEMY.
1. To recognize the true PRIMA MATERIA.
It is to be found everywhere; but if you do not find it in your own house, you will find it nowhere. It is a living substance that can be discovered only in places inhabited by man. It is the only substance from which the Philosopher’s Stone can be prepared, and without that substance no genuine silver or gold can be made. In thirty pounds of ordinary mercury, there is usually not more than one pound of the true substance; and a hundred pounds of ordinary sulphur usually contain not more than one pound of that which is useful. It can only be found above the earth, but not below it. It is before everybody’s eyes; no one can live without it; everybody uses it; the poor usually possess more of it than the rich; the ignorant esteem it highly, but the learned ones often throw it away. The children play with it in the street, and yet it is invisible. It can be perceived by the sense of feeling, but it cannot be seen with the material eye.
2. Use for the preparation of the PRIMA MATERIA only the rose-colored blood of the Red Lion and the pure white gluten of the Eagle.
Let your Will be strong, but without anger, and your Thoughts be pure from that which infects the lower strata of the earth’s atmosphere. Let the fire of the divine Will penetrate deeply within your soul, and elevate your mind to the highest regions of thought.
3. Obtain the sacred Fire.
It is not of man’s making; it cannot be bought, but it is given for nothing to those who deserve it.
4. Then follow Multiplication and Increase, for which purpose weight and measure are necessary. Weigh all things with the scales of justice, and measure them by the rule of reason.
5. The fifth is the Application, that is to say the Projection upon the metals.
This will be accomplished by nature without artificial aid.”
In the “Pronaos of the Temple of Wisdom” by Franz Hartmann
The Qabalistic Tree of Life represents many things, but in the interests of this post it symbolizes the “Path of Return” to one’s higher self and actualization:
“It seems to me that brutal, unchecked power must ultimately be balanced by Chesed before one can attain any further. Believing might is right is a roadblock to spiritual progress when entering the Abyss.
We know Chesed is Mercy. Mercy must be sought, attained and given before the Abyss can be crossed. The Abyss is a leap of Faith. We must return to a child-like state or we stagnate and die. The so called Geburan “Path of Power” ends here. It is limited and microcosmic and only suitable for the aspirant who refuses to take up the Path out of ego-fear (which, I suggest is impossible for any one who has truly attained to Tiphareth.
I believe that 5=6 in the A.’.A.’. system, or the attainment of Tiphareth, along with the ensuing “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel”, may in fact be attained via this so called Path of Power). However, in my opinion, any magickian who has achieved Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel–and is operating their True Will–cannot, but act in accordance with 1. Universal, 2. Consistent and 3. Self-Evident natural laws–which are ultimately Balanced and not Mars heavy.”
From Lev Grossman, the author of “The Magicians” that spawned the show on SYFY (I love that show):
“A magician is strong because he feels pain. He feels the difference between what the world is and what he would make of it.Most people carry that pain around inside them their whole lives, until they kill the pain by other means, or until it kills them. But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.”
This is a wonderful statement. A magician is (hopefully) someone who looks at their pain and tries to feel it and understand it. The challenges we’ve been through in our past is part of what shapes our Will (the reason we are here) in the world. We’re not running away from hard times but validating them as lessons and as a way to know and love ourselves! Are you a magician?
“Magic is the highest, most absolute, and most divine knowledge of natural philosophy, advanced in its works and wonderful operations by a right understanding of the inward and occult virtue of things; so that true agents being applied to proper patients, strange and admirable effects will thereby be produced. Whence magicians are profound and diligent searchers into nature; they, because of their skill, know how to anticipate an effect, the which to the vulgar shall seem to be a miracle.”
– The Goetia of the Lemegeton of King Solomon