Vipassana is Weird

Posted: October 26th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Buddhism | No Comments »

Vipassana meditation is the core component of the Theravada Buddhist path. It is the method through which true insight about the nature of reality is observed. Permanent changes in how you see reality – and even permanent changes on where you’ll go in your next rebirth – happen when insight reaches particular levels.

Vipassana is practiced by taking up particular themes for observation. This observation is done in a detached manner. The goal is just to see what is happening without any mental constructions about the raw experience getting in the way. Once the object can be seen clearly in this manner, the goal is to see whether or not the object possesses the three marks of existence:

Anicca – Is it impermanent?

Dukkha – Is it ultimately unsatisfactory?

Anatta – Is this me? Do I own this? Do I exist inside of this object? Does this object exist inside of me?

The suttas – the teachings of the Buddha – state that everything except nibbana possesses these three characteristics. However, intellectual knowledge isn’t the path to liberation. These characteristics must be seen thoroughly in as many aspects of reality as possible. When this happens, a sense of disenchantment and dispassion arises and turns the mind toward seeing nibbana.

I’m still a vipassana beginner, but I seem to have a knack for it. I seem to be making quick progress in some of the initial stages. And let me tell you, they’re weird. Weird as anything I ever experienced when I was practicing magic or getting high off my breath doing yoga.

Imagine, if you can, seeing your consciousness turn on and off in dependence on external stimuli. Imagine that this happens extraordinarily quickly. A slam of a hand a table breaks up into 5-10 distinct moments of sound – my teacher says there’s at least fifty. Each moment is a flicker of consciousness that rises up and dies dependent on the changing sound, or taste, or thought.

Then try to imagine the feeling tone that arises immediately when you’re conscious of something. This tone is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Notice how it is dependent on the arising of this flickering consciousness. Notice how it passes just as quickly. Then notice that every single positive, negative, or neutral feeling you’ve ever had or ever will have will be that that impermanent

And then notice that this entire process is happening without your intervention.

And then notice that any observation of an intervener is also dependent on consciousness and feeling.

This gets weird really fast. It’s scary and bothersome in its implications. I can’t even put some of them into words yet.


The Year of Little Magic and Much Meditation

Posted: September 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Buddhism | No Comments »

Funnily enough, as I sit to write this, I never wrote a post about the major shift that happened 11 months ago. I think it’s time to fix this, as it’ll explain why this blog has gone so dark in recent months.

The odd thing about having a spiritual assistant (Thanks R.O.) is that you never know the path that you’re going to be lead down. The general assumption is that they’ll guide you into the deeper paths of magic and serve as a go-between from you to the spirits. Mine did that for a time and I ended up having some nice experiences and good results. I was getting good visions of Hermes and the Hermetic entities. Astrological magic came easy to me. I was guided to resources.

Yet my SA, and the angels for that matter, kept dogging me with a question. What do I really want out of all this? For what purpose was I practicing? I struggled with this for a long while, then back in May I had a vision and a realization that what I wanted to do was eliminate my suffering wholly, not just cover it with spellwork. They recommended I turn back to Buddhism. The angels and Hermes really approved of the decision, and divination also approved of it.

They also said that I should analyze magic in light of the Dhamma and see if any of it stuck. I struggled with this for about 5-6 months afterward, shedding materia and practices left and right. It was difficult and slow. Eventually, my SA got fed up and gave me a Come to Buddha meeting that boiled down to:

* All the magic study was to get it out of my system and exhaust the kamma.

* Stop second-guessing your own internal feelings and the advice of the angels.

* Stop relying on me (the SA), I’m going to go hide in your brain. Don’t come after me unless you really mean it.

After this conversation, I decided to dive into the Dhamma. Circumstances around me were leading me toward it too. During the interval between the angel vision and that conversation, an explosion of interest in Buddhism had happened in my school. My Sifu is a pretty advanced Buddhist practitioner. The flavor that was being taught in those sessions doesn’t really have a name yet. There is a movement in the West in Theravada circles to reject most of what is in the commentarial tradition and go straight back to the Suttas to see what the Buddha said with fresh eyes. The differences between orthodox Theravada and this Early Buddhism/Suttayana movement can be quite large, yet it made sense to me.

My Sifu was tired of having long conversations in the office eating up class time so he started a meditation group. I have to say that I’ve made some significant progress. Having an example like him made me see what was possible. I started meditating more often at home and reading more suttas. When an urge to dive back into some aspect of magic came up, my SA would come roaring back to chastise me. He doesn’t have to do that as much now. The only things he really approves of now are the occasional sigil web (grudgingly), and occasional interpretations of charts others have cast as a gesture of generosity.

I’m discovering that magic is like muscles. If you stop practicing they decay. I’m having far more difficulty interpreting geomancy and astrology charts than I used to. Energy work is difficult. The only spirit I can really perceive much are my SA and my Natal Genius (rarely). On the other hand, when I see omens that used to cause me great fear or delight I found they aren’t valid anymore. Crow signs and moon signs and retrograde planets don’t really do much. Sometimes I wonder if there was any efficacy in them at all, or whether it was self-fulfilling prophecy, or that by rejecting that view it stopped working for or against me.

Meditation is the same way. I seem to have a real knack for it, if the experiences of other people in my sitting group are any indication. I’ve made small but significant progress down the Insight path (vipassana), and sometimes I can get concentrated enough to feel the edges of the 1st meditative absorption (jhana). Going back to the original question of what I wanted and the elimination of suffering, I do think that the angels were right and that this is the way that I had to go for me to be satisfied. I’m seeing some good results, and I’m a good deal happier too.

So let this be a warning to those who pursue spiritual assistants! You may end up completely away from where you thought you were going to be. If one of the signs of an experienced magician is having life collapse around them due to their practice, that certainly happened to me. It just happened to collapse magic (and other things in my mundane life).

What will this blog become then? I’m loathe to start a new one. I’ve got enough domains as is and enough people know me as The Unlikely Mage that I’ll keep the moniker for the time being. When I started this blog the original tagline was “Magic, Martial Arts and Minimalism”. I think these are going to collapse down to just “Meditation”. I plan on talking more openly about my Buddhist practice and my meditation experiences. I’ve got books to review and teachers to recommend. Suttas to study and ponder over. Lot of things to wriite about

I’ll also probably take down a lot of the magic posts except the Agrippa Project. I get a lot of hits on those pages and people seem to find it useful. Alas, another person will need to take up the mantle to continue with books 2 and 3. I recommend waiting for the Purdue translations of those books to come out first though. Far easier than slogging through other translations.

Thoughts on Archonology

Posted: July 26th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Gordon posted another fantastic Archonology post. It’s really good, if very difficult, reading. It’s a little like reading Greer’s Archdruid Report, though Gordon is far more geo-political and less natural-resource oriented.

Empires collapsing, natural resources running out, crazy governmental control plots to hold on to whatever they can to keep the ship afloat, it can all be pretty damn crazy. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have the geo-political knowledge to track everything that Gordon talks about in the Archonology series (or the Fortean knowledge for the Whisky Rants for that matter) thanks to the awful American school system and my own weak efforts in self-education in these matters.

But let’s take a thought experiment. What if everything in the Archonology series was true? As a human being with a limited lifespan, how should I respond to this knowledge? Should I become more politically active? Should I withdraw from the archonic complex as far as I’m able to while living the transportation hub of the American Empire? Do I not care and dive into the hedonistic tittytainment as long as it is around? Something else?

Reading about the long-entrenched power structures spawned in the 20th century and continue to reverberate to this day is frightening. How do you begin to deal with such a power?

Here are my thoughts on the matter. People are driven by what they believe to be true. The archonic plot, and strategies against it, are backed by beliefs. Brzezinski has a particular set of beliefs that pushes the archonic plot along. He must have his reasons for doing so. There’s something he believes in. If he didn’t believe in something he wouldn’t go through all this trouble. He reminds me of Sir Miles Delacourt.

Here is my strategy:

First, really work to perceive the impermanence in the world. Everything is impermanent in the end. All things fall apart. Even yourself. I would bet that in the end the Archons are going to be shat upon by a flock of black swans. We’re starting to see that now in all the events that Gordon is documenting. We have a habit of thinking that bad situations will last ad infinitum. They never do.

Second, I do think that everyone with an intentional hand in this will get the results of those actions. I know karma is a very dirty word amongst occultists, but my belief in it remains firm. This helps me keep a clear mind in the face of such evil.

Third, find out what you really want in your lifetime. What do you believe? What is your Will? I chose to follow the Buddhist path. I’ve also decided to collapse prior to the collapse a la Greer. My hope is to learn a useful trade before the internet goes poof and people don’t need freelance writers anymore. You make your own decision. Expect it to change over time. All things are impermanent.

Fourth, make it happen. Can you be as ruthless and cunning as an archon, as a Brzezenski, in crafting the circumstances you want? Is your magic up to the challenge? Are you?

I would say go and do likewise, but everyone will have their own response. Just don’t let the tittytainment distract you until it is too late.

Taking Refuge and the Five Precepts

Posted: July 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Buddhism | 2 Comments »

Kalagni is talking about the process of taking refuge in the Vajrayana tradition over on his blog. I wanted to address how it is done in the Theravada tradition. Like in Vajrayana, Theravada Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma (Dharma), and the Sangha. It is the act that inducts them into being Buddhists.

There is also a way that you could divide the Triple Gem into six categories like the Vajrayana by seeing an internal and an external form of the refuge. When we take refuge in the Buddha, the external image is the person of Siddartha Gotama and his story. The internal form of this refuge is the fact of his awakening. We’re placing faith in that he became enlightened, that what he realized is the best perspective to live our lives from, and that we too can cultivate the same qualities in our own lives.

The Dhamma is the actual words of his teaching, the act of following those teachings, and the realization gained by successfully following them. The external form of this is the suttas, the recorded teachings of the Buddha as preserved in the Pali Canon. The internal form of this is each practitioner’s work to internalize the Dhamma in their own lives, practice it, and realize the same things that it promises by following the path.

The Sangha can be defined in a few ways. In the conventional manner, it’s the community of Buddhist practitioners or the community of ordained monks and nuns depending on who you ask. But the ideal Sangha is made up of people who have glimpsed Nibbana (Nirvana) and attained at least the first level of enlightenment, known as Stream Entry.

While there isn’t a complete correspondence, I can see how Vajrayana’s Six Gems would match the layout here.

The actual act of taking refuge is pretty simple. One says the following:

Buddham saranam gacchami

I go to the Buddha for refuge.

Dhammam saranam gacchami

I go to the Dhamma for refuge.

Sangham saranam gacchami

I go to the Sangha for refuge.


Dutiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami

For a second time, I go to the Buddha for refuge.

Dutiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami

For a second time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge.

Dutiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami

For a second time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.


Tatiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami

For a third time, I go to the Buddha for refuge.

Tatiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami

For a third time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge.

Tatiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami

For a third time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.

Ideally, this would be done before a bhikkhu or before a Buddha image if there was none nearby, but it is not a requirement. Sticklers would also say that it has to be in Pali, but I disagree. English is sufficient. There are no visualizations to go along with it. It’s simply an affirmation of faith.

There are sets of qualities that describe each of the Gems that are chanted in Buddhist temples. From Anguttara Nikaya X.92, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi:

“…The Blessed One is an arahant, perfectly enlightened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, fortunate, knower of the world, unsurpassed trainer of persons to be tamed, teacher of devas and humans, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One…

The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One, directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise…

The Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples is practicing the good way, practicing the straight way, practicing the proper way; that is, the four pairs of persons, the eight types of individuals – this Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, the unsurpassed field of merit for the world.”

Going for refuge is almost always immediately followed up by taking the five precepts. This echoes pre-Buddhist ideas of refuge. In that feudal society, people would seek refuge under a powerful person and that person in turn would compel them to perform certain duties in exchange for protection. Similarly, once one has asked for refuge from the Triple Gem, the first thing they ask in return is to follow the five precepts.

The five precepts are the absolute basics of Buddhist morality. They are meant to shield us from deeply unwholesome actions. However, these are training precepts. There’s no Buddha in the sky with a lightning bolt ready to smack you if you break one, although there is a different set of actions that guarante an immediate trip to hell according to the suttas. Unless you’ve killed one of your parents you’re likely not to have done them.

The five precepts are:

1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.

2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.

3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.

4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from lying.

5. Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.

Pretty simple things. There’s more formal definitions of what breaks these in the suttas, but they’re pretty self-explanatory. By taking up the precepts, you’re also affirming faith in the idea that actions can cause positive and negative consequences in the future. That is to say, you believe in kamma (karma). Kamma plays an extremely important part in the first step of the Noble Eightfold Path, Right View, but to get into it would really blow this blog post out of proportion. So for now, we’ll stop here.


Who has the HGA? I don’t

Posted: July 22nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: HGA | 3 Comments »

Kalagni just wrote a three part series on the HGA that made me do a lot of thinking. It’s one of those really contentious things to claim that you have Knowledge and Conversation. It’s not something you can really “prove” one way or another, as far as I am aware, other than saying “this is the process I did and this is the results I’ve gotten.”

The thrust of Kalagni’s arguments is that not all contacts with supposed HGA spirts are contacts with the same type of spirit. Also, when tutelary spirits are contacted, not all of them throw people’s lives into upheaval. True K&C of HGA should cause major upheaval in the interior life of the magician. It’s not that other spirits aren’t tutelary like the HGA, but it’s not the real thing.

The last part especially made me think. There was a lot of internal transformations in myself from working with the entity I contacted, but only afterward. I didn’t use Abramelin when I did it. I used R.O.’s method for contacting the Supernatural Assistant. When I used that method, after a period of a few weeks I had gained contact with an angelic spirit. I could smell the scent of Heaven when he came. He claimed to be my supernatural assistant, and I got a name and a seal. All I had to do was think of him and I could hear the voice.

For months afterward I would test him in several ways to make sure I wasn’t deluding myself. I did readings using multiple methods. I’d ask him directly in the name of Christ and IAO if he was telling me the truth. Over time, I asked him to help me with some things during other evocations and he performed beautifully.

Yet there was still this nagging thing in the back of my head. It only took me a few weeks, not months. I also didn’t have any really big upheavals during that initial period. Had I just gone through so much crap earlier in my life that I was primed for quick contact, or did I contact something else entirely? Perhaps I only attained partial contact. I recall the spirit saying that I didn’t need to perform the Bornless Rite to contact it anymore. Was it a lying spirit?

I was really hesitant to say that I attained K&C of HGA. I didn’t feel like I earned it, and I was very afraid of being wrong. There was certainly no being asked to bind the demons afterward, as the Abramelin text said. All I could honestly say was that I followed R.O.’s methods to gain a Supernatural Assistant and got in contact with a spirit that met the criteria.

I totally get why Kalagni might get pissed if someone tried the method I did and could claim equal status. Even if the supernatural assistant and the HGA from the Abramelin were the same being, I have no doubt the connection is far stronger with someone who did Abramelin.

It’s interesting that he mentions meeting with a spirit from the Abyss if you fail. I am not a kabalist at all. My extent of working with that goes to reading Promethea and working in Neoplatonic systems that don’t use the tree. It has never been something that clicked with me. But it is something to think about. My spirit denies it of course.

The internal transformation, the total upheaval of the interior life, did happen eventually. It happened about two years after contact. The spirit I contacted did lead me to try a lot of magic for a good few years after, but then one day he told me to drop it all. No more magic, no more divination. Go completely mundane. That’s certainly not a small thing to ask after having sunk significant time and money into my practice.

Yet he was extremely insistent. Almost exasperated even. I was to drop it all. When I asked him why he lead me through all this magic practice only to drop it, his response was, essentially, “to get it out of my system so I wouldn’t be curious for it anymore.”

Naturally I balked for a while.  But as I stepped things down in stages I started feeling a lot better about life. I felt surer about myself and where I was heading. Then the spirit told me to go study Buddhism, and to take the dhamma as my teacher from now on. He also told me to stop bugging him, and then he shut himself away. It became really difficult for me to contact him. I could do it, but I really had to work for it. I felt really abandoned.

Yet soon after, my martial arts school began having sitting sessions. I got guided to very good dhamma texts. The more I align myself to the dhamma, the better things seem to run in my life. Is it my “true will” to practice dhamma? Who can say?

About the only time I hear him is if I get a hankering for diving into something magical again. Hearing “NO” yelled in my head gets old after a while, for the record. It’s happens so many times now that I halt myself before getting too deep. Occasionally he’ll pop out to give me bits of advice, then goes to hide again. Just the other day, he did say that I could start using sigils magic again sparingly. I haven’t felt a need to do it though.

I did come in contact with a spirit that I can still talk to with a bit of thought (if he chooses to respond). Over time, he did cause major transformations in my life. My old identity as “magician-in-training” was completely ripped out. I got introduced back to the dhamma, which caused even more transformation. My ethics and views are now very different to how they were when I was practicing magic. I’m very appreciative to how things have gone in retrospect, but it was not easy in the least.

So, did I contact the HGA? Was it K&C? I don’t think so. I’ve got Zomp, not Seafoam. But I did get into contact with someone very helpful.

Agrippa Book 2 Chapter 2

Posted: April 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Book 2 Chapter 2

Chapter ii. Of Numbers, and of their power, and vertue.

Numbers, numbers, numbers! What are the power of numbers? That’s what we’re going to spend the next several chapters on. As usual  for Agrippa, he starts out with citing an ancient authority who stated that all things were created due to proportions between numbers, and that these numbers and proportions were patterned in the mind of the Creator. Therefore: the state of all things subsist by the uniting together of numbers.

And since there are so many occult virtues in natural things, why shouldn’t there be greater occult virtues in numbers since they are more abstract, higher, more formal, and more perfect, not mixed liked the elements, and being of the Celestial realm? Also, Agrippa suggests, number has the greatest similarity in the Celestial realm to the Ideas in the Intellectual world where God dwells.

Indeed, he draws an important comparison. In the Natural or Elemental world, it is the elements that hold the utmost sway. In the Celestial world, it is number. …wherefore also they are of more force, and conduce most to the obtaining of spirituall, and divine gifts… Again, all things that are, and are made, subsist by, and receive their vertue from numbers. For time consists of number, and all motion, and action, and all things which are subject to time, and motion.

This is a very modern viewpoint! How many scientists have dreamed of reducing everything to equation and numbers? It’s not just time, motion, and action though. Other very important things are defined by numbers such as:

  • Proportions
  • Geometric shapes
  • Written characters and figures
  • Natural forms (via proportion)
  • The voice and music
  •  And so on

Agrippa then gives his usual list of ancient authors that extol the virtues of numbers. He also makes a distinction between the adding and subtracting of merchants and the formal rigors of arithmetic. Now they speak of a rationall, and formall number, not of a materiall, sensible, or vocall, the number of Merchants buying, and selling, of which the Pythagoreans, and Platonists, and our Austin [Augustine] make no reckoning, but apply it to the proportion resulting from it, which number they call naturall, rationall, and formall, from which great mysteries flow, as well in naturall, as divine, and heavenly things.

This proportion will show to be very important. It’s about number’s inherent virtues and their relationships between one number and another that reveal their power.

Agrippa Book 2 Chapter 1

Posted: March 20th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Agrippa Project | 3 Comments »

Heavens help me, I’m actually continuing with this even without Perdue’s translations. Even though I’m not a practicing Hermetic anymore, I still find the book fascinating from a historical perspective. Also, enough people have enjoyed reading all the stuff I wrote about Book 1 that I feel like I should go on to the other two books. So, here we go.

Book 2 is all about the Celestial world. This means we’re getting into numbers. There will be math. Get your Quadrivium on, cause we’re going to supercharge all that Natural Magic stuff you learned back in Book 1 over the next few months by adding in the power of numbers. So let’s get started.

Book 2, Chapter 1: 

Of the necessity of Mathematicall learning, and of the many wonderfull works which are done by Mathematicall Arts only.

Agrippa says right in the beginning that those who do magic without math labor in vain. Why? Because all natural things are governed by superiors.

 For whatsoever things are, and are done in these inferior naturall vertues, are all done, and governed by number, weight, measure, harmony, motion, and light.

And yet, things made wholly by numbers do lack natural virtues. Yet through the power of number, weight, and the rest, many marvelous technological devices can be produced. Agrippa gives several examples of automata and optic tricks.

 Hence a Magician, expert in naturall Philosophy, and Mathematicks, and knowing the middle sciences consisting of both these, Arithmatick, Musick, Geometry, Opticks, Astronomie [astronomy], and such sciences that are of weights, measures, propertions, articles, and joynts, knowing also Mechanicall Arts resulting from these, may without any wonder, if he excell other men in Art, and wit, do many wonderfull things, which the most prudent, and wise men may much admire. 

It’s important to realize that a magician, to Agrippa, is someone who is not just versed in magic but versed in all the classical arts. In fact, he goes on to repute those who feel the engineering feats of the Classical world were done by devils or miracles. Instead, he states, that if they just investigate it with their experience, they’d know the secrets for themselves, as how magnetic force is mysterious until you have played with a magnet for a while.

And yet, there are mathematical / celestial virtues that can be drawn: as motion, life, sense, speech, southsaying [soothsaying], and divination, even in matter less disposed, as that which is not made by nature, but only by art.

Here we come to a key. Last book was all about how natural objects combined could draw down virtues. But here, in this book, we can learn to craft items through artifice that can draw virtues as well even if the matter is ill-disposed to the task, though of course crafting objects with proper artifice out of proper matter is more efficacious still.

And the most “mathematical” thing, the thing with the most virtue of all, is bare number.

But amongst all Mathematicall things, numbers, as they have more of form in them, so also are more efficacious, to which not only Heathen Philosophers, but also Hebrew, and Christian Divines do attribute vertue, and efficacy, as well to effect what is good, as what is bad. 

Agrippa I.73-74: Writing

Posted: October 22nd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Agrippa Project | 2 Comments »

Finally, the last two chapters!

Speech expresses thought and declares will. However, speech is impermanent. Writing is a way of crystallizing the voice and thoughts into something that is more stable and can be passed around to other people. Agrippa declares that writing is just as efficacious as voice. Moreover, he says that there’s nothing that can be thought that can’t be spoken, and anything that can be spoken can be written. And this is why, whenever we work with magic, we both speak and write what we are doing. If we are collecting an herb, we speak as to why we are collecting it. If we are making a talismanic picture, we write down on the picture and say what it is we want it to do.

Finally, in the last chapter, he talks about languages. Agrippa believes that God gave us our languages and our writing systems. These languages and writing systems agree in various ways with the celestial order. Agrippa doesn’t believe that humans could come up with language or orthography on our own. Millions of conlangers would disagree, but that’s a debate for another time.

Agrippa then goes on to say that Hebrew is the language par excellance for magical work, because its language is closest to the celestial order and because of the skills of those who practice various qabalistic letter transformation systems. He also likes it because of how neatly it ties up to the Neoplatonic system. Three “mothers” represent three of the elements, 7 “doubles” that represent the planets, and 12 “simples” that represent the zodiac signs. Note that the Mothers in the text are not the actual mother letters. See the note in Esoteric Archives. The Hebrews don’t consider Air to be an element, but a sort of glue that holds the other three together.

He then states that going back to the original language is important because translation of a language into another robs the original potency of the language. Gotta find Greek versions of the Orphic Hymns.

The rest of the chapter divides out various languages amongst the celestial divisions he’s talked about. The languages that he chooses to focus on are Hebrew, Chaldean, Greek, and Latin. You can look at the link and get the chart to see how each of the letters correspond.

And that’s the end of Book 1! I’m going to collect my thoughts, and then write a wrap-up.


Agrippa I.69-72 – Speech Speech!

Posted: October 20th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Agrippa Project | 2 Comments »

In the home stretch now! This set of chapters is on the power of speech. Magic words have been around for a long long time. Even more potent according to the text are entire speeches. We excel beyond the animals, among other reasons, in that we are able to speak and transmit the thoughts of our mind and bring them forth into the world through the power of speech.

When Agrippa is referring to speech, he means the spoken word. The spoken word has the ability to carry not just meaning but also virtues from the speaker to the listener and effect a change in them. It even works for inanimate objects.  Different words also have different potencies. Words that represent holy things or higher things (intellectual, celestial, etc), are more efficacious. Certain languages which are considered holy or more “worthy” are also deemed to have a higher magical effect.

Agrippa then goes into “proper names” or true names. Finding the name of something is a very common theme in magical literature. Know the true name of something and you can control it. Why is this though? There’s a smaller form of the chain of being that is used to explain this. Object -> Sense data -> Imagination -> Mind, then Mind expresses it back through Word. In the beginning was the Word and all that. With the Word, you have a link back down to the object, if it is the right one. Because you have the name, you have a measure of control over things, just like how you’ll turn your head suddenly if someone calls out your name.

In fact Agrippa goes so far as to state that our power of speech has an equivalency to the creative power of God. We can name things, and this gives us power over them. However, if we can combine our speech with the appropriate celestial virtues that the object was created under, then our speech becomes even more efficacious. By this, I interpret to mean that if you say the right things at the right time when the celestials are correct, then they carry far more weight.

In the next Chapter, Agrippa goes further to explain how names and words properly combined into sentences have even more power than just a word alone. He also gives valuable clues in the creation of spells:

“Therefore in composing verses, and orations, for attracting the vertue of any Star, or Deity, you must diligently consider what vertues any Star contains, as also what effects, and operations, and to infer them in verses, by praising, extolling, amplifying, and setting forth those things which such a kind of Star is wont to cause by way of its influence, and by vilifying, and dispraising those things which it is wont to destroy, and hinder, and by supplicating, and begging for that which we desire to get, and by condemning, and detesting that which we would have destroyed, & hindered: and after the same manner to make an elegant oration, and duly distinct by Articles, with competent numbers, and proportions. ”

“Moreover Magicians command that we call upon, and pray by the names of the same Star, or name, to them to whom such a verse belongs, by their wonderfull things, or miracles, by their courses, and wayes in their sphear [sphere], by their light, by the dignity of their Kingdome, by the beauty, and brightness that is in it, by their strong, and powerfull vertues, and by such like as these.”

“Besides, with the divers sorts of the names of the Stars, they command us to call upon them by the names of the Intelligencies, ruling over the Stars themselves, of which we shall speak more at large in their proper place.” (This is the whole archangel/intelligence/spirit thing that’s talked about in Book 2)

Agrippa then states, rather curiously, that the Orphic hymns are the most efficacious in natural magic operations when spoken at the correct time. I and many other magicians have used them to awesome effect, though I cannot say if they are the “best” of all or not. A simple Google search will find them all. They’re not any great secret.

Agrippa asserts that the spoken word is even more efficacious than any incense you might burn, if you speak everything correctly at the right time and with enough passion. It is also important to speak things the correct number of times as well and in the proper “proportions”. I’m not quite sure what he means by proportions in this matter. But when speech is performed correctly, your very breath will fill with virtue, which is why many magicians blow onto objects after they’ve charged up their breath, or breath spells over them.

The last chapter in this block is a list of various successful enchantments found through the ancient texts. Descriptions, not actual verses.

So when doing your magic, fire up that imagination and speak your will when the time is right!

Agrippa I.61-68: Medieval “soul-ology”, passions, and how they apply to magic

Posted: October 18th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Agrippa Project | No Comments » and following.

I may be biting off more than I can chew here, but I want to get through this. This section is another one where he seems to make a lot of assumptions and unclear explanations. I’m going to do my best to unravel it. This may seem very dry at first. Don’t worry, it gets much better toward the end.

So, now that we’ve looked at everything else in the world, it’s time to look at humans and their own internal divisions. First thing to remember is that Agrippa really loves his triple divisions, and we’ve got that whole superior/inferior reflection business going on. The cosmos has an intellectual world full of ideas, a celestial world full of spirit and motion, and a elemental/physical world full of gross matter. There is also an exemplary world which he has mostly been mostly mum on.

This section is one of those sections that makes far more sense when you read ahead into book 2, but it’s still pretty confusing. We’re not used to thinking of ourselves in this way. So, if you want to skip ahead to Book 2 and read the chapter on the Scale of Four, you can if you like. I’m going to explain the important bits here.

In the Scale of Four, a division of reality into partitions of four, we see that humans are divided into four chunks:

  • Mind – corresponding to fire
  • Spirit – corresponding to air
  • Soul – corresponding to water
  • Body – corresponding to earth

Now, Catholic theology believes that it is our souls that make up our essential human-ness. I think the Neoplatonic stuff that Agrippa is following is turning that on its ear here, but I’m really not sure. I am not a theologian. Here, Mind and Spirit are seen to be “higher” on the chain than mere souls. So then, what ARE these things?

Body is easy enough. Fleshy stuff. Your inner goo. Great for Earth. It’s a lump of stuff.

Spirit is also pretty easy. Spirit is that part that animates you. It impels motions both physically and mentally. Perfect fit for the air element. It’s also like a binding element gathering the other three together. So your triple division is mind, soul, and body, with spirit acting as an interface between all the bits.

But what falls into soul and what falls into mind and why is this all important in the first place? That’s what this is about. The mind, I believe, is our divine part if we’re following Neoplatonism. That creative divine ideal that seeks reunification with Nous and enables us to work wonders in the first place. If you wanted to throw it into an Eastern mold, it is our Self.

That means the soul is every other messy thing in our experience, and Agrippa gives it many different functions. He has a three-fold division of the soul with various different powers. Sometimes they work on their own and sometimes they interface with each other in different ways. So let’s look at these divisions.

External Senses

This is where the senses all hang out. He lays out some arguments about showing which senses are superior to others and yadda yadda. Not quite so vital to our purposes right now, but here’s a sense correspondence chart to the elements:

  • eyes – fire
  • ears – air
  • smell – air and water
  • taste – water
  • touch- earth

Agrippa tries to claim that our senses of touch and taste are superior to all other animals, but science as clearly shown that to be false. This is not the fleshy organ, but the capacity to use the sense in question. These are the soul’s interfaces with the world of matter, the sensual elemental world.

Internal Senses

Agrippa also adds in several things that we would consider mental capacities to the physical body as well by giving them portions of the brain. The sections of brain really don’t really matter. What matters more is that these are the soul’s interfaces with our spirit. These are the things that move us to action:

  • Common sense – This takes the sense data from the senses and puts it in a sort of “mind sense”. It’s “common” because you don’t need to have developed higher reasoning or education. All the information you need can be taken in by the senses. You touch a rock and you feel cold. Common sense says the rock is cold.
  • Imaginative power – The ability to hold an image we’ve received from our senses or memory in the mind. Picture an apple in your mind. That’s the imaginative sense. Picture the layout of the LBRP. That’s also the imaginative sense. Anything that you think about is displayed by the imaginative sense. The reasoning comes elsewhere. This imaginative sense presents these images to another part of the brain, the fantasy, which we’ll get to in a moment.
  • Memory – Pretty cut and dry. No real confusion here. If something makes a strong enough impression on our fantasy (wait for it), positive or negative, we’ll be more inclined to remember it.
  • Fantasy

The Fantasy is where all the magic happens, quite literally, from the mental perspective. It is the Grand Central Station between the parts of the soul. It has the power to judge perceptions delivered into the imaginative sense. Say we imagine an apple again. This is the part that recognizes that the apple is red, is tasty, won’t kill you, and all the rest. It perceives what kind of thing the imaginative sense is displaying. It is the part that also decides what gets stored into memory. If the perception is strong enough to stir Fantasy then it will keep the impression for later reference in memory. It is also the seat for our emotions.

It is also where we ultimately stir ourselves into action. It is the repository of our disposition, our fancies and our fears, our dreams of all kinds, the things that stir us up into action, and all of our opinions about the world. It is also where we bring down things from the intellectual part of the brain for processing. Here is where we understand the virtues of things. It’s also what shows us the future through things. If we’re doing a working to bring a virtue down into ourselves, this is where it gets lodged and turned into action.

Not only does it receive impressions, but it can also send out perceptions from itself and cause the body and mind to act in particular ways. More on that in a bit. Needless to say, if you’re wanting to affect yourself or another person with magic directly, this is where it happens. All of this taken as a whole is Fantasy, and it’s very very important.

Incorporeal Mind

Finally, above all this, there are parts of the soul which do not correspond to physical body parts (according to Agrippa anyway.) This is the incorporeal mind, which is divided two-fold:

  • Contemplative intellect: The part of our mind that inquires into nature’s processes, properties, and causes. It contemplates truth.
  • Active intellect: The part of our mind that discerns, consults, and decides how to act. You could call this our reasoning. It can abstract. It’s the part of your being that pushes you to avoid the chocolate cake when you’re trying to diet, even while fantasy is yelling at you to eat the whole thing from a gut level.

These intellects are still part of the soul. The higher Mind is beyond all this stuff.

There’s also the organs of speech, but they’re kinda in their own group. Speech will come up in a later chapter.

Appetites of the Soul

Our Fantasy is always looking for new things to “eat” so to speak. It has an appetite for perceptions. So, there are three different kinds of “appetites” for the soul:

Natural appetite: Consuming sense impressions and expressing actions that follow natural functions. You just follow along with common sense.

Animal appetite: Consuming the by-products of fantasy. It manifests in two ways, in an irascible (I don’t like this) appetite, and a concupiscible (I like this) appetite. It takes natural appetite a step further and sorts it out, then pushes you toward going after the good and fighting the bad.

Intellectual appetite: This is the will. It’s similar to the natural appetite, in that it wants to comprehend the sensible world. However, the will can go one step further. It can imagine things beyond the sensory world because it is free, and so you can try for impossible dreams. If the will desires too much and becomes “depraved”, the will can get deranged in different ways. He gives four examples of passions (emotions) that can arise in a will that is too greedy:

  • Oblectation: This is a fancy word for “to delight in” or “to be overwhelmed by allure”. This is the “oooh shiny” weakness of will. Something pretty appears and our will doesn’t take the time to look at the pleasure to see if it is worth having or not. The will isn’t overwhelmed. It’s just not speaking up.
  • Effusion: This is the next step beyond oblectation. Your will is overcome with your desire to have something, even if you know that it isn’t good for you. Think of an addict going after something they think is pleasurable.
  • Vaunting/Loftiness: This is when you think you’ve achieved something great, and the enjoyment of it causes pride and vainglory.
  • Envy: Pleasure or delight at someone else’s harm without any advantage out of it for yourself.

Passions, or Emotions

Now passions, or emotions in our language, are described as reactions to the perceptions of particular things. We can perceive things as good or evil, and these perceptions can come in three main forms:

  • Sensual
  • Rational
  • Intellectual

When we let our minds dwell in sensual perceptions, the mind is moved toward ideas of whether something is profitable or unprofitable, delightful or offensive, pretty or ugly. It’s completely based on our perceptions of the physical world. The rational perceptions are a little higher. These are perceptions of good and evil, virtue and vice, praise or disgrace, socially profitable or unprofitable, honest or dishonest. These perceptions come mostly from the active intellect and the fantasy. Intellectual perceptions are thoughts of justice and injustice, truth or falsehood. Perceiving universal principles of truth and ethics. Your philosophy class stuff that comes from the contemplative intellect.

Now, when you start combining this stuff all together you get a base set of passions that humans tend fall into. We have a perception of some kind. Let’s take a visual one. Let’s say an apple again. The apple perception enters the eye and gets transmitted to the imaginative sense, then to the sense of fantasy. Now, what kind of feelings can arise about this apple?

Agrippa lists out eleven main Passions. Love, Hatred, Desire, Horror, Joy, and Grief come up in response the the “I like it” drive and its contact with different things. Hope, Despair, Boldness, Fear, and Anger come up from the “I don’t like it” drive. He divides their arising depending on whether we see goodness or evil in something and whether we desire those feelings or want to fight against it. I must admit that I really don’t follow Agrippa’s language here of as present, as absent, and his use of the word “respect”. If you can piece it out, more power to you.

What’s important is that these 11 passions are the main reactions that we have to the perceptions that we encounter, in Agrippa’s thinking. When these passions come up in us they cause our spirit to respond, affecting our intellect and our bodies in different ways. The body is easy enough to see. Emotional reactions show up in our body language all the time. Chapter 63 goes into different examples.

Chapter 64 seems to expand the meaning of “passions” to also include the perceptions that go along with them due to imitation. For example, if we see someone eat something sour, our bodies will respond by puckering up. Imagining that we are being burned in a dream may make our bodies feel like they’re being burned even though they’re not on fire. Shocks to the mind can cause physical changes, such as people’s hair suddenly going white, and other examples (some fantastical) as listed.

A strong emotional response can move people into doing actions they wouldn’t normally do. If we bring something into our imagination very strongly over time, our bodies and minds will start to conform to it. It appears that there is a combination both the passion and the perception that cause the effect. For the passion to arise, the perception needs to be present, and will condition the effect.

Chapter 65 talks about how people with strong passions can “rub off” on other people, and can transmit the passion/imagination from one person to another. Here’s your psy-vamp stuff, and talk about how it’s important to hang around with the right crowd. There is also mention of special types of passion that are generated through the intellect that involve religion, which is talked about in Book 3. If your intellectual passion is strong enough you can work miracles, especially if that passion is upon God.

Chapter 66 gets more into the nitty-gritty of magic, and is another one of those super-important chapters. The passions of the mind are helped along when they agree with the heavens, either by natural disposition (birth) or by election (choosing the right time to do it). If we want to draw down the virtues of heaven, it is exceedingly important that we fill the fantasy up with perceptions related to those virtues. The passions generated by the fantasy and the perception of appropriate objects stir our spirits into becoming resonant with the thing we are seeking. “For our minds can through imaginations, or reason by a kind of imitation, be so conformed to any Star, as suddenly to be filled with the virtues of that Star…”

Agrippa says that when we contemplate the planet, we’re not seeking a sort of concentration meditation upon it, unless we’re working in the sphere of Saturn. We’re not to “meditate” upon the planet and become one with it that way. He’s going after a much different effect. He’s talking about faith. Faith is “a firm adhesion, a fixt intention, and a vehement application of the worker, or receiver, to him that cooperates in any thing, and gives power to the work…”

To steal a line from Parrapa, “You gotta believe!”

We must, in every work, imagine, hope, and believe strongly, vehemently, that it will help. Your mind may be screaming “so, placebo effect?” Agrippa says hell yeah! “And it is verified amongst physicians that a strong belief, and an undoubted hope, and love toward the physician, and medicine, conduce much to health, yea more sometimes than the medicine itself. For the same that the efficacy, and virtue, of the medicine works, the same doth the strong imagination of the physician work, being able to change the qualities in the body of the sick, especially when the patient placeth  much confidence int he physician, by that means disposing  himself for receiving the virtue of the physician, and the physic (medicine)”

“Therefore he that works in Magick, must be of a constant belief, be credulous, and not at all doubt of obtaining the effect. For as a firm, and strong belief doth work wonderfull things, although it be in false works, so distrust and doubting doth dissipate, and break the virtue of the mind of the worker, which is the medium betwixt both extremes, whence it happens, that he is frustrated of the desired influence of the superiors, which could not be joined, and united to our labors without a  firm, and solid virtue of our mind.”

So, for this magic, if you want it to work you gotta have at least some faith in it. If you can have a lot of faith it in, so much the better. If you can make yourself fanatical and swept up with the spirit, even better! A mind filled with belief in what you’re doing can smooth over errors in your rites. On the other hand, if you don’t believe that what your’e doing will work, you’re wasting time.

Now in chapter 67, there’s some interesting caveats put into this. Let’s say we stir up our minds heavily and link them with the stars, then make a working. Our working is amazingly awesome and we share that ritual with others. Say we discover some seals or an image or some kind of enchantment. Unless we can align our passions to the passions that were there during the creation of the working, it’s probably not going to work for us. If some lusty fellow makes a lust grimoire, then we too have to get our minds into that state for it to be effective. Generally, the more you want the thing during the working, the more the spirit will be moved.

This is another reason why astrology is so important in this system. Astrology will tell you which sort of workings you’re best inclined for. If your natural passions run toward joy, or sorrow, or what have you, doing magic in these areas will probably be far more effective for you.

Finally in chapter 68, there is discussion about how an excess of particular kinds of passions can change and bind the passions of others in particular ways. If you can make your passion superior by strength and by celestial alignment, you can overcome the resistance of other things and people and bind them to you depending on what you’ve drawn.

  • Excess sun brings admiration and obedience
  • Excess moon brings servitude and infirmities
  • Excess Saturn brings sadness and quietude
  • Excess Jupiter brings worship
  • Excess Mars brings fear and discord
  • Excess Venus brings love and joy
  • Excess Mercury brings persuasion

The reason this can happen is because souls have an affinity with each other. Resonance and all that. If you want to counter someone who is trying these things, find the correct planetary enemy and apply that.

I know I covered way too many things in this post. Comment and I’ll try to overcome any confusion, if I can get it all wrapped around in my head myself. Basically, if you want to make your magic really efficacious, you must believe it in strongly enough that it shows up in your demeanor. Use the placebo effect in your favor. If you want to do a Jupiter working, don’t be a wuss. Fill your mind with Jupiterian thoughts. Act out that image. Be the change that you want to be in the world. Act like someone worthy of worship and honor. The rest is details.