G.D. terms and FAQ
From: email@example.com (Richard M. Romanowski)
Date: 11 Mar 93 00:43:53 GMT
>> Instead of the theory of magick, we could have mention of a few
>> specifics .... the Emerald tablet, the tarot, black mirrors, blood
>> sacrifice vs. perfumes, goetia, theurgia, Pythagoreanism, Masonry,
>> Qabalah, geomancy, astrology ...
> YES, YES, YES, most of these terms I don't even understand. Please
> explain more!!!
OK. One sec:
Everybody who considers themselves a qualified occult scholar,
please read the below recommendations and criticize them if they're
wrong. The below recommendations are specific and too limited to form
a new FAQ, but the reading list below might be better for newbies than
our current FAQ.
So if I'm wrong, tell me why.
OK, Mark, here are thumbnail sketches of those terms, and
The Emerald Tablet: A brief document written by Hermes Trismegistus,
(i.e. thrice-greatest, albeit my Greek is so bad I would translate only
'thrice-great' -- I think superlatives should be reserved for -tatos/-tata/
-taton forms) detailing an Operation of the Sun, apparently alchemical in
nature. Since I am not now and have never been an alchemist, perhaps some
erudite mage will step forth and explain it.
(I really ought to be able to quote it from memory, but I've been
busy lately, you see...)
The Emerald Tablet is whence we get "as above, so below,"
which is to Hermetic magic what Maxwell's Equations are to
contemporary electrodynamics. Note that there have been Einsteins and
Feynmans in electrodynamics, and there have been Paracelsi and Dees
and Bennetts in magic, so the original document may not be perfectly
up to date ... then again, maybe it is. Good topic for discussion.
Black mirrors: A popular G.D. way to train clairvoyance.
There's a lot of funky medieval lit on mirror magic, if you happen to
get off on medievalism. I do. But then again, I've been known to
read Waite, so if I ever annoy you, just toss your head and say,"How
smart could he be? He reads *Waite*" in your most superior tone, and
everyone will snub me for weeks.
Black mirrors are much cheaper and more fun than crystal
balls, bowls of water with a drop of ink in them, and other monochrome
surfaces at which you can stare in order to train clairvoyance.
Butler has a book on training clairvoyance which is without exception
the worst thing he ever wrote. All his other books are great. The
clairvoyance one didn't do much for me.
Blood sacrifice vs. perfumes: This is a sticky one, because I
don't want to talk about something I hold very sacred, namely the sort
of magic practiced by my ancestors.
Great stuff. Mostly bloody stuff. Unfortunately ninety
percent of it is oriented towards Iron Age lifestyles, and is
Crowley mentions that blood can be replaced by perfumes, since
both give evoked spirits a basis for manifestation. To what degree
this is psychological and to what degree this is physical I have been
unable to determine. Physical appearance generally seems to mean
something that the magician sees but does not show up on a photograph
BUT in the early twentieth century many photographs of ectoplasm --
the substantial part of spirits, ghosts, etc. -- were taken. I don't
know if they're real or fake. Maybe they were all high on lighter
Pythagoras was way cool.
Neo-Pythagoreans did math. Sometimes they did magic. We owe them
Check the library. ... more on search topics later.
Masonry: The G.D. was masonic. Search under mason, freemasonry, etc.
In your friendly local library.
THIS is important. The big QBL.
Some years ago I learned to read Hebrew, just to study it. It
is worth it to learn Hebrew. Learn the alphabet right away -- you
need it to work with tarot. Just 22 letters. No prob. You can do it
in an evening.
Qabalah is probably the most important part of the whole
Western Tradition. It is, like many wisdoms, revealed from some kind
of higher consciousness -- that archangel Methraton, what a card.
Life o' d' party.
Where to begin? It's a huge field. Aryeh Kaplan is the best
writer I've found on it -- courtesy of Amanda Walker, who mentioned
the name on this very group. The good GD writers on it are Fortune
and ... well, Fortune wrote well on it, probably the best of any of
'em. Gareth Knight tried to do a followup, but I'd rather read Dion
Fortune any day. _The_Mystical_Qabalah_ is her book, and it's
probably the place to start.
Qabalah includes coding processes for converting Words and
Names into numbers, and it relates math to theology. (The math is
arithmetic. You don't need to graduate kindergarten to handle it.
Addition, multiplication -- no calculus.) It ... is too immense to
talk about without explaining the Tree, which would take me too many
hours in ASCII. With a pad of paper it would take half an hour to
*Some*body must have a good ASCII picture of the Tree. Please
be kind and post it. Please. Thanks. (People give all kinds of info
when one says 'please' ... there's some kind of idiom to describe this
in English, but my English is bad ... the 'mystical' word? the
'mantric' word? the 'mad' word? I don't know, it's one of those
outcroppings of Volkgeist or Zeitgeist. They dress so much alike I
can't tell them apart....
The Tree of Life is the same one featured in Genesis, right next to
the Tree of Good and Evil and those two butt-nekkid kids ...
The tree of Life is the tree they should have been climbing.
So do better than Adam and Eve did! Rebuild the temple!
The Tree of Life is also a diagram of ten circles and
twenty-two lines. There are various versions of it ... occultism is
not a static discipline. Aryeh has some neat versions, but for now
stick to the basic G.D. version, as seen in Dion Forune's book, and
Geomancy: A method of divination using a stylus and sand
board, getting those funky earth spirits to give you an inside line on
the racetrack, etc. Earth spirits are notoriously mischievous.
Better stick to HRU.
HRU: Who is HRU? (Too bad Dr. Seuss didn't do a book starting
with that one... the children of America would all know Tarot. "Fifty
fish, thirteen fish. Red Death, Blue Scorpio," is basically
equivalent to "one fish, two fish; red fish, blue fish" in all ways
except scansion. That (i.e. scansion) is why Ambrose Bierce is
immortal and I am posting on Internet...)
HRU is the presiding angel of the tarot. Some people claim he
is Heru, a Thelemite kind of angel/god/hawk/cheesewhiz. I have a
sawbuck riding on the cheesewhiz theory...
What is the Tarot? The Tarot is your buddy. The Tarot is
your pal. The tarot is your best teacher; it is also a deck of 78
cards. 22 of them are Trumps ... start by checking those out. The
best books are by Paul Foster Case. Get anything by him, but start
with _Tarot_ and _Book_of_Tokens_ His _Highlights_of_Tarot_ isn't
terribly necessary, so go with the first two.
Hmm. 22. 22. What was it there were 22 of? Somethin'... it
just *reminds* me of somethin' ... associative memory is important in
occultism. Ask Umberto Eco. Read Umberto Eco, if you speak Latin.
And have nothing else to do. You might learn a lot, but he's not
central to G.D. style study. He's kind of like comic relief that you
need Latin to understand.
Handy. Useful. Sometime necessary ... and that's just the
skill of charting horoscopes. Everyone should know a little, but it's
more important for its symbolism and relation to magical categories
than it is to predicting and divination.
Yoga: If you don't know any, learn some stretches. Do 'em.
Do some breathing. Don't strain.
Start with Qabalah and Tarot. You'll encounter a little yoga
... do it. It should crop up in the books I give below.
Use your library. You do not have an infinite amount of money
to spend on books. I would advise reading as much as you can from
libraries and not paying for it. Way too many people enjoy shopping
more than occult work, and end up doing lots of shopping and little
occult work. But if you can afford it, get some Dion Fortune,
especially _The_Mystical_Qabalah_, and Paul Foster Case, _Tarot_.
When you've read 'em through at least once, think about
getting a decent tarot deck, and Regardie's _The_Golden_Dawn_.
Handy hint: Some books have bibliographies. Frequently the
people who compiled them were on dangerous drugs and wrote down
useless titles. But sometimes you hit paydirt. Advice: find 'em in a
library and make sure you can use 'em before you buy.
Good books to have as reference works:
Ernest Wood _Concentration_ (A classic on an essential topic. Enough
yoga for beginners, plus lots of
Paul Foster Case _Tarot_ (The only way to study TARO.)
_The_Book_Of_Tokens_ (Less intellectual, suitable for
Dion Fortune _The_Mystical_Qabalah_
Israel Regardie _The_Golden_Dawn_
(Has nearly all of the G.D. lesson papers. Essential reference for
G.D. style work... You might want to browse through before deciding
to buy it, but it's worth the purchase price. If you know everything
in it, you know more than some people who post here and act smug about
it. Myself included. (: But there is a LOT in it. You can read it
for a long time.)
Those are the essentials.
The advanced stuff:
W.E. Butler _The_Magician:_His_Training_and_Work_ (This has a lot of
keys which are d**n useful, and it's readable and doesn't try to
trick the reader.)
_Lords_of_light_, etc. I don't remember all the titles,
but Butler is clear, helpful, and benevolent. You may not want
to buy all of his stuff, but read it.
anything by Dion Fortune (She was a *very* good occultist.)
(Read her fiction too.)
Aryeh Kaplan _Sepher_Yetzirah_ (If you're serious about Qabalah.
Hebrew not required, but the text is
beautiful in the original language.)
I started out with Crowley stuff, because he was the only
magician loud enough to get noticed by the very pedestrian libraries I
was working from. I therefore worked a lot with his stuff at first
... whatever else you want to say about him, he wrote very good
Dion Fortune and her followers are of the opinion that Crowley
was a twisted tippling freak. A man who has helped my studies a great
deal and who is a zealous Thelemite (i.e. adherent of the religion
that Crowley started) says that "Crowley was an not a very nice person." The fact
that he was personally scum doesn't mean he didn't know anything. He
knew a lot. Mostly he knew about goats, but he knew a lot of other
If you want to get into Crowley stuff:
Aleister Crowley _Magick_in _Theory_and_Practice_ (has two useful
bits. Lots of ripping prose. The *form* is witty and
readable. The content is both good and original, but the
good parts are not original and the original parts are not
(really not very useful, but a lot of folks think highly of
it...and the man could write wonderfully. A good read. When
you realize that he is revealing cosmic mysteries of
grandeur, recall that it is a cut-and-paste job. Alan
Bennett, his teacher, was probably much more enlightened than
Crowley ever was.)
(Yes, that WAS meant to start a discussion.)
S.L MacGregor Mathers
(This was very important to Crowley ... it is of historical
interest, but I wouldn't advise using it. Unless you really like
_The_Kabbalah_Unveiled_ (about as readable as tapioca. But if you're
into G.D. history... it's a rip-off from some
very good stuff. Aryeh Kaplan is better, and
easier, and more qualified, and cooler, and
better at particle physics. But Aryeh kaplan
is just a stud, and that's all there is to
Waite _The_Book_of_Ceremonial_magic_ (for history only. I like
Waite's prose in this book. Which is a sure sign of an organic
brain disorder... or so everyone says. Ripping on Waite has
been fashionable since the turn of the century. I actually
think this book is more readable than Mathers' TKU, but some of
Waite's other writings are just brick walls.)
So ... that enough for you to work on between now and next
Monday, Mark? Just tell me if you read all of those books and want
some more titles. (: I realize it'll just take you a day or two... if
you get bored, work with the tarot deck you've bought...