Monday, February 26, 2007
So, if you want to know when new posts are made and you don't want to just subscribe to the feed, join the Google Group:
Rufus Opus Updates | Google Groups
Note this isn't a discussion group. It's an announcements-only group. If you want to join a group to discuss the topics I go on about here, I've got a Google group for that too. :)
Rufus Opus: The Great Work | Google Groups
Google rocks, much better than Yahoo! I want to use it again, and again.
SNL references aside, I really do like the Google groups interface better than Yahoo. It's much more user-friendly.
Friday, February 23, 2007
In order to access this authority, we must first get to the point where we reclaim our Race and Value, as Plotinus put it. There are various means to accomplish this. My personal favorite is being Born Again in the Spirit, but I'm a ecstatic Christian, so what can you expect? The major downfall of this method is that the best environment for receiving this rebirth, or "baptism of the Holy Spirit" is in a fundamentalist charismatic Christian Church, and while the spirit of God is awesome, the people in the churches... well, they aren't exactly... centered. Usually.
Within the Western Mystery Tradition (WMT), other means exist. Knowledge and Conversation with your Holy Guardian Angel (K&CHGA) is one way. I personally believe this is a necessary first step in every magician's practice. Once this has been accomplished, you're guaranteed access to the Governing Spirits of the Planets, and you can begin to work with them to harmonize your sphere with theirs, thus eliminating the stumbling blocks in the areas of your life that are governed by their assigned rays. Integrating the powers of the planetary spheres into your own sphere results in progress along the Great Work, the elimination of character flaws that hinder your satiety, and wisdom in the realm governed by that particular sphere.
For example, if you're chronically unlucky in business, this could indicate that you're out of tune with the sphere of Mercury. In such a circumstance, you would conjure the Governor of Mercury, and ask it to integrate the powers of Mercury into your sphere. Soon after the ritual, you'll find that patterns of inappropriate behavior become apparent in your life. When you've identified these patterns, you work with your HGA to change these patterns of behavior, isolate the root cause, and reclaim that part of your life, putting it in its proper place. Eventually, you'll find that you're not ruled by misfortune in areas of business, instead you're dictating through Mercury how your success in business will manifest in your sphere.
This can be applied to the other planets as well. Agrippa gives the following attributes to the planets in chapter xxxviii of Book 3:
The Spirits of the Planets have their own hierarchy. Different Grimoires provide different interpretations, but for the sake of simplicity, each planet can be said to have an Intelligence that acts as a mediator between the lower realms and the higher realms, and a Spirit that acts as a mediator between the higher realms and the lower realms. The magician (generally speaking) works with the Intelligences on matters of spiritual growth, and the Spirits in matters of material manifestation. The Spirits, while extremely powerful, are placed under the authority of the Intelligences.
For Work that results in material gain, like fabulous riches, you might start by working with Your HGA to identify the best means to get the fabulous riches to manifest in your life, and identify the appropriate planet to work with. This could be Jupiter, if you want to get rich by gaining promotions and responsibilities in your career, or the Sun, if you want to discover fabulous riches that were previously hidden, or Mercury, if you want to get rich through quick-witted transactions. Your HGA will guide you to the appropriate planet.
Once you've identified the appropriate sphere, you'll want to ascend to the Intelligence of the sphere and enlist its aid in preparing you to receive the manifestation, and in getting its help in directing the Spirit to manifest the riches in the best possible way in the material realm. Then you would conjure the Spirit of the planet, and give it detailed instructions. the Spirits of the planets are incredibly powerful, but not necessarily intuitive. They'll often do what you say, not what you want. That's why it's important to work with the higher spirits first.
Now, if you're in a hurry, you can also choose to work directly with the lower spirits, those closer to the material realm. Each of the spirits and angels in the various Grimoires are usually listed with some reference to their planetary governor, and you would work these spirits through the authority of their higher-ups.
In the next section, I'll get into Talismen, the most effective means I've found to direct the rays of the planets into your personal sphere.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
The Lamp is a tool I hadn't really used much before getting the vision of that Glyph that started this series of posts on the NP basics. Usually, I would light some appropriately-colored candles in my Work, and either let them burn out as part of the ritual, or snuff them and relight them later.
Then Modrocus posted a couple of experiments he had been doing using the Papryi Graecae Magicae (PGM) at the ritual_magic yahoo group. This was about a day or two before I had a revelation about the Glyph and the altar setup it implies. When the revelation came, the role of the Lamp became pretty clear.
In the PGM, the Lamp is used as a means to commune with the spirits. In some rituals, when the spirit is present, the magician or skryer can see their presence as a quality of the light around the Lamp that isn't there when the spirit isn't present. In other rituals, the Lamp is like a transmitter, with the wick being made out of a cloth with the spell written on it and then burned. I thought that was pretty cool.
Then I had the revelation of the Glyph, and it became apparent to me that the Lamp plays another role as well. In order to be effective in this role, the Lamp must be positioned outside the circle of the planetary talismen, representing the realm of infinite light that surrounds the divine darkness in which the Good dwells. This minor little detail has made a big impact in my Work. I never grasped the far-reaching effects a properly laid-out altar can have on your personal and magickal life. The altar is the representation of the macrocosm and the implements at your disposal to function within that macrocosm as a magician. Just setting up your altar properly results in a fundamental change in your life.
My "Lamp" is a tall brass candle stand, about 18 inches high. I have a tea-lite candle holder on top of this, and I can drop in a tea-lite before the ritual begins, and it has a really neat effect on the rest of the altar layout. It provides just the right ambiance for scrying in a crystal, and as I go through the various stages of the Work, I can check the Lamp to see if I'm where I need to be. If the Spirit of God is present, it shows.
In addition, I can use the Lamp as a transmitter through the use of tea-lites appropriately inscribed and anointed, following the guidelines of the PGM.
So in addition to the "standard" elemental tools a magician in the NP system has on their altar, I strongly urge you to include a Lamp. It completes your altar in a way that can't be easily described, but is almost instantly understood when implemented.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
2.0 - Practical SectionsWith the posting of Section 1.5, the basic philosophical foundations of the Neo-Platonic cosmology (as I understand them) have been laid out.
The next section of posts will be on the practical application of the system presented in the previous sections. In this next series, I'll be looking at the practical applications of the following aspects in a bit more detail:
- 2.1 - The Lamp
- 2.2 - About those Planets...
- 2.3 - The Joys of Making Talismen
- 2.4 - Elemental Kings
- 2.5 - Spirit Pots
- 2.6 - Them pesky demons are at it again...
- 2.7 - The Genius and the Evil Daimon
1.5.1 - The HGA, Your Emissary from GodOk, so there's a boat-load of talk about the HGA, what it is, and what it does on various message boards and web pages across the Internet. There's lots of talk in modern published magical books, too. Most of what you read is speculation, because people with opinions and writing talents haven't attained K&CHGA (Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian angel), but they don't bother to let that stop them from saying their piece.
Now, the phrase itself comes from the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. It was popularized by Crowley, predominantly, in the modern Western Mystery Tradition. The author of the Sacred Magic wrote the book to his second son because he could not pass on the mysteries of the QBL to him. The QBL had to go to the first-born son. He wanted his second son to have a mystical heritage as well, so he gave him the mysteries of the Sacred Magic. He states that the Sacred Magic can be derived from the QBL, but the QBL cannot be derived from the Sacred Magic.
In the NP magical system, we've seen that the basic premise is that of emanation. God unfolded itself throughout existence in hierarchical stages, each getting closer to the realm of Matter. The QBL is another manifestation of this type of philosophy. I've argued that the NP emanationist philosophy is the source of the QBL, that the Jews adopted the concepts and dressed them up in their own cultural symbols. There's evidence that can be found to support this view, or the view that the NP system was derived from the QBL, or that they developed from at the same time concurrently, in the same environment, drawing from the same sources. While various interpretations of the evidence can support different views, I personally believe the NP system is the source of the QBL, or at least the primary influence. There's just an awful lot of "coincidental" domination of the Jews by Greek influence at every major growth-point of the QBL.
So that's how the HGA, a symbol from a QBList, ties into the NP system I'm presenting. I've staid away from the QBL in this series of posts so far, but practically speaking, the HGA is the best-known representative from God in the modern Western Mystery Traditions. There's an Agathadaimon in more traditional Hellenistic writings that may correspond to the HGA, but I worked with my HGA before even knowing about the Agathadaimon, so anything I would say about that entity would be tainted speculation. I've got to stick with what I know.
The first thing you should do as a practicing magician using the NP system is make contact with your HGA. This entity is assigned to you at birth, and is responsible for all the spiritual initiations, authority, and Gnosis you achieve in life. It is your personal emissary from the Good, the One, the Source, God itself. Through K&CHGA, you get the attunement of your sphere to the point where you can work with the spirits from your position of authority as a representative of God in the material realm. It's "like" a new age spirit guide, in some ways, but the new age spirit guide model doesn't present the meat of the entity's interaction with you the way the HGA model does. Spirit guides in the New Age take on forms of animals and such, indicating they are "lower" in the neo-platonic hierarchical system than the angels. However, that being said, my HGA revealed it had taken on the form of a spirit guide earlier in my magickal practices to get me to the point where I could attain K&CHGA.
To attain K&CHGA, I used the ritual Liber Samekh as presented in Lon Milo DuQuette's The Magick of Aleister Crowley. Some people say it isn't the same thing at all, but they're honestly mistaken. The evidence to prove this is found in the Abramelin rite itself. You have to perform Samekh successfully to find the proof, but it's there.
After making contact with the HGA, your sphere is changed. You go through a Solar "initiation," to put it in Golden Dawn terminology. The result is the beginning of the experiential knowledge of your Race and Value as expressed by Plotinus. From this knowledge-based-on-experience, the authority to "command" the spirits is attained.
1.5.2 - Working with the SpiritsAfter attaining K&CHGA, the magician is ready (and strongly urged by the HGA) to begin working with the spirits. Spirit conjuration is the primary methodology of any magician's performance of the Great Work. I believe that every magickal act, whether ritual or contemplative, involves interacting with spirits in some way or another.
I started with the ten Archangels of the Sephiroth, because I was coming out of a primarily-QBListic background. After Working with the spirits for a little while, I realized that the Archangels of the seven classical planets were sufficient for my initial stages of the Work. Through them, I learned an incredible amount of knowledge. Their influence on my sphere changed the way I am able to see the world. Nothing spectacular (no auras, second-sight, remote viewing, psychic flashes per se), but totally and completely life-changing. The procedures for working with the spirits of the planets can be found in the Modern Angelic Grimore I wrote. It's remarkably easy.
In addition to the spirits of the planets, the spirits of the elements are also worked with in performing the Great Work. These spirits rule over the physical manifestations of the rays of the higher spheres. A fire elemental might be put in charge of manifesting a Jupiter ray into someone's life, resulting in an unexpected and tumultuous promotion at work. For mundane operations, I'm learning these are the best spirits to work with in the overall hierarchy of spirits.
The spirits of various grimoires are also worked with in the Great Work. The spirits of the Goetia in the Lemegetton, for example, can be considered to be "earth-bound" spirits, that is, residing closer to the material realms than to the heavenly realms. These entities have been documented and worked with by many magicians, and the methods of contacting them are recorded and pretty clear. Their attributes are documented, and once contacted, their abilities and limitations can be discovered simply by asking the spirit itself.
1.5.3 - The Goal of the Great Work in the NP SystemYou've no doubt noticed that the Work consists of both the spirits of the higher realms and the spirits of the lower realms. If the Great Work were all about transcending the material realm, there would be no reason to work with the lower spirits. The fact is, however, that we aren't born in the flesh to transcend it. We are here to learn our role, and then to exercise our authority to meet our obligations.
Humanity is the nexus point between the material realm and the spiritual realm. We are the stewards of the manifest realms. In the NP system, we stand at the gateway between the realms, seeking union with the divine in order to fulfill our assigned tasks while we appear to be separated from God, and directing the forces that manifest as reality according to the Will of God. We learn this Will by going up through the hierarchies and learning our place in existence, and then we implement the plans through the direction of the spirits. The higher up you go, the more responsibility you get, and the more Work in the physical realm you'll have to accomplish.
The Goal of the great Work is not to leave the flesh and material realms behind. We do that when we die anyway. The Goal is to find your place in the scheme of things, your reason for being, and in finding that, you gain the ability and authority to accomplish it. The accomplishment of the purpose is the practical manifestation of the Great Work.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
It doesn't mean that you treat the things of the material realm badly. I don't think Plotinus intended it that way at all. Later mystical interpretations would take that stance, as seen in some Gnostic asceticism, and in the foundation of what's become modern Christianity, but that's not what I think he was saying.
Honoring something means to bestow honors on it, to treat it with respect. You honor a spirit by lighting candles to it. You honor your mother and father by treating them well and taking care of them when they are old. You honor your employer by doing the right work at the right time.
In Plotinus' Enneads, he wasn't saying to dishonor material things in an active way, but to literally not-honor the things of the material realm above the things of the higher realms closer to "the good."
Honoring the higher realms would naturally result in a better understanding of the material things. As you learn their proper place in existence, you treat them with the respect that they deserve. Not with disrespect, but with appropriate respect.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
"The Great Work"A magnificent phrase, eh? I've been through so many online debates and discussions about what the Great Work "means" that it isn't even funny anymore. There are those who say it is "attaining unity with the Divine." Others say it is becoming the best that you can. Others believe that every person has their own Great Work to do, that it represents the climactic culmination of all their efforts in life.
In tracking back the phrase in the esoteric community, I ended up back with the Alchemists. I'm sure it goes back further, but I'll be damned if I can find it quickly enough to suit my purposes. If anyone has any input, let me know. :)
Briefly (there's never enough space), the alchemists saw the Great Work as the accomplishment of a spiritual transformation. It was also seen as the creation of the Philosopher's Stone, a stone with the ability to turn base materials into finer materials, like lead into gold. One couldn't create the Philosopher's Stone (in my opinion) without being spiritually "advanced." The process of creating the Stone resulted in perfection of the person, and the perfection of the person resulted in the ability to create the Philosopher's Stone. There's a marriage here of physical and spiritual elements that I think cannot be stressed enough.
In the NP context, the goal of man is to return to the Source of all that is. The Philosophers saw this as a process of training the mind to think like a God without becoming falsely proud. Plotinus speaks of the process as "reclaiming" our race and value. I love that concept.
It isn't becoming a God. (You're already a manifestation of "the good," "the One,", the "Primum Mobile.) It's a process of remembering where you came from. The reason we forget is detailed in the Enneads of Plotinus, and they're an interesting read. Here's an excerpt that pertains:
It must be noted, however, that the process of reclaiming your race and value did not result in anything spectacularly fabulous. No lightning from the fingertips, or flaming balls of fire. What it did result in was a change in the person you are. It changed the way you acted and interacted with everything else. You remember you're here, and what your purpose in life is, and you're suddenly happy. You see things as a whole complete process, and the painfulness of the moments of sadness are gone, and the moments of joy are magnified. It was a philosophical change, a change of Mind that brought satiety, the sense of being completely fulfilled. And if you weren't feeling that way, you had forgotten, and needed to remember where you were from again.
So Plotinus said there's two ways to remember your race and value. You honor the things of the higher realms, and dishonor the things of the lower realm. I've turned this into contemplative method of getting rid of the horrors of embarrassing moments that haunt you through your life. I broke it into steps at this link.
Asceticism blossomed under this philosophy. Lots of Gnostics took up the mantra of "all things material are evil and to be avoided at all costs." This view influenced a lot of the early Christians too. Paul, for instance, expresses a lot of ascetic notions in his writings in the New Testament.
Iamblichus, meanwhile, took things down a different route. He was a "wee bit" more into the Hellenised Egyptian mythology. As a result of his initiations into the Egyptian mystery cults, he participated in the Theurgic rituals of his day. I'm intensely jealous. In the Theurgia, his reply to a letter written by Porphyry criticising Theurgy, he explains how working with the spirits of the higher realms results in getting you closer to God. He also talks about our role in this realm of matter.
Each level of emanation from the higher realms, each entity that inhabits the realms between the material and the Source of Everything has a purpose. We are also manifestations, and our greatest goal as magicians is to remember that we are emanations of God, and that we are here to do something specific. The Work is a process of learning what that purpose is, and how we're supposed to accomplish that purpose while we're here. We work with the spirits to learn, and to be raised higher and closer to God, but at the same time, we guide them in their ministrations here in the realm of matter, because that's where we fit into the hierarchy of things. We're the part of God that came to matter (Nature) out of love for matter to care for the matter and minister to it through the actions of the spirits on the higher levels. The trick is to remember what we're here for, and then to learn to do it the right way.
Hopefully they don't leave their computer after reading this and pick up a gun and shoot at you, eh? :)
Friday, February 09, 2007
1.3.1 Why we Work with Spirits
In the NP system, we work with the Spirits to get closer to God. This is called theurgy. Iamblichus, a student of Plotinus, taught that working with the Spirits was a means to purify the sphere of the magician, to make it more like the creator and less like the created. He recognized that when you conjure up a Spirit of Mars, you're working with something on a higher level, and that something has emanated something into what eventually manifested as you. As it is more pure, its very presence close to your sphere purifies your own sphere, restoring a bit of the awareness of your own divinity as it relates to the powers over which that particular spirit presides.
From the Thomas Taylor translation of Iamblichus' Theurgia (Section IV, Chapter II):
"in all theurgical operations the priest sustains a twofold character; one, indeed, as man, and which preserves the order possessed by our nature in the universe; but the other, which is corroborated by divine signs, and through these is conjoined to more excellent natures, and is elevated to their order by an elegant circumduction, this is deservedly capable of being surrounded with the external form of the Gods."
1.3.2 How we Work with Spirits
The chapter I quoted from is in the context of how Iamblichus taught that we are to interact with spirits. He was addressing an argument from Porphyry, another of Plotinus' students, who asked why a mortal man in the flesh would be conjuring a "superior" being, and then turn around and command it to act in such-and-such a way. (I'm paraphrasing.)The answer is that while yes, we are in matter, we are of two parts, the divine and the flesh. The divine aspect of the self has existed since before time within the One, God, who emanated down through all the spheres and beings and elements and stuff-ness of everything. The flesh part is the temporary shell of the divine spirit, and while it is lower in the cosmic hierarchy, the spirit within is still in authority. Therefore, the magician surrounds the material part of themselves with the symbols of the divinity within, and petitions the higher spirits to appear using the classic conjuring orations from such sources as the grimoires.
The Spirits (and I'm including the "gods", angels, daemons, elementals, or whatever else you would call them in your branch of the Western Mystery Tradition) appear in response to the conjurations because they have a vested interest in us. They are also aspects of the One within us. However, they are of a different form, and in that form they don't have the same capacities that we do. Once they appear, the differences in the nature of our emanation place us in a position of authority over the spirits, and we are therefore able to "command" the spirits to do our bidding.
Now, the basic formula for conjuring the spirits is pretty simple. You surround yourself with the things the spirit has an affinity for. Each Spirit is responsible for emanating an aspect of the One into the material realm. Michael, Archangel of the Sun, is responsible for emanating the things that manifest with a solar nature in the material realm. You surround yourself with the things that have solar properties to get his attention, and conjure him in the name of God that describes his function. Now, as a ceremonial magician, the best thing you can have that Michael has emanated into the material realm is his Arch-angelic Seal that he revealed to magicians. His Name itself is the means he revealed himself to this realm. The names of God that are associated with him are also revealed by Michael into this realm in order to establish contact with him.So to conjure Michael, you would burn some solar incense, wear the seal of Michael, and conjure him in the Name of God associated with the Sphere of the Sun, "Eloahv Da'at." (Your spelling may differ.)
When Michael appears, you explain your need, remembering that yes, he is superior to you in some ways, but at the same time, you are his boss (in a VERY spiritual way). That is to say, the Logos within you is the same Logos Michael receives his orders from.
If you're commanding the Spirits from the authority of the part of yourself that is the flesh, you'll get no results. As a Christian, I know that I have been "Born of the Spirit," and my work with my HGA has resulted in certain "initiations" that grant me the awareness of my Roles and Responsibilities in the cosmic Hierarchies, so I'm getting pretty consistent results. Not always pleasant from the mundane perspective, but always beneficial.
So the proper order for conjuring the spirits is:
- Be right with God. Know your place. "Thou hast cleansed me with hyssop, oh Lord!" and so forth. (Remember in the Exorcist, the priest kept chanting, "It is not I, but Christ that commands you...")
- Have the seal of the spirit.
- Call the spirit ("Thou spirit Michael, I conjure thee here in the name of the Most High God, in the Name of the Logos-Christ within me, in the name Eloahv Da'at, to appear before me in this crystal...")
- Explain what you want from the Spirit. (It's a good idea to get confirmation that it understands, and have it tell you how it will do what it agrees to.)
- Thank the Spirit, and bid it to go and do as it agreed.
Pretty simple, eh? The rest of the details of the various grimoires and such are cultural necessities. That means that when the Almadel has you make a Beeswax Angel Conjuring Device, you make a Beeswax Angel Conjuring Device if you expect to work with the spirits of the Almadel. If you're OK with working with something that MIGHT be LIKE the spirits of the Almadel, you're free to make your own adaptations, but the results are not guaranteed. I must stress, you have to know the rules before you can break them.
The three stages of Classical Education are Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. Grammar teaches the basic building blocks, Logic teaches how the building blocks are assembled, and Rhetoric is the stage where you demonstrate your understanding of the pieces and parts by assembling them in new ways.
The Grimoires themselves contain the elements of the Grammar stage. Lists of spirits. Means of contacting them. Performing the instructions in the Grimoires brings you in touch with the Spirits, who teach the Logic stage. After you've been "initiated" you advance to the Rhetoric stage, and you can make things up based on your knowledge and understanding gained from research AND experience. I'm not advocating Chaos Magick, but I've grown to recognize the elements of Chaos Magick that are true in certain contexts. What gets on my nerves is that Chaos Magick doesn't give magicians the context necessary for success. :sigh: I've ranted on that elsewhere.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Aspirants to the Great Work would do well to interpret this and apply it to their own lives. Myself especially. :)
Monday, February 05, 2007
I received a bit of feedback this morning from on the grimoire from one of the recipients. He said some generally kind and praising things, and then said:
"Now the criticism part of the e-mail. I would have liked some more angels in the grimoire or maybe some magical advice or guidance the archangels have themselves given to you. Have you tried lesser angels in this system? If so record what you did and your results so that the readers can experiment for themselves. "
I think this is excellent advice, and would be a worthy addition to future revisions.
Now I'm mentioning this because the guy went on to say, "I hate handing out negative advice I am always afraid someone will take it the wrong way."
I want to tell everyone who got a draft of the grimoire: I write for a living. I have VERY thick skin. Satan is a kind and gentle friend compared to the editors I've worked with in the past.
This is NOT negative advice. This is constructive criticism. I need honest feedback to make it the best it can be. I'll be charging for this thing, and I want it to be worth the money.
With that in mind, I'm writing this blog post as a magickal act. :)
Agrippa places Ethiopia under the influence of Saturn. Therefore:
Thou Spirits of I conjure thee, in the name of Jehovah Elohim, by the Powers of the Thrones, to send forth in overwhelming flame thy Angels, Intelligences, and Spirits to bring to this blog my brothers from Addis.
Tzaphkiel, I conjure thee by Jehovah Elohim. My simple request is more Ethiopians, please.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
So far the best editorial critique I've received has come from Fr. Servitor Lucem, a wascawy wabbit who really DOES magick. (Shocking, I know!)
Kathy McDonald (whose outstanding Work has been documented on the Solomonic and Ritual MAgic yahoo groups if you havent' read them) made some excellent comments as well, and that lead to correcting the spelling of the Tzadkiel lamen in the final version (It's a Qoph, not a Kaph).
Their critiques made Version 0.3 the best of the lot. I can't thank them enough.
I'm probably going to work with Moloch and his publishing outfit to get some hard copies available, eventually. For now though, if anyone wants an electronic draft, you can have a PDF emailed to you for a donation (minimum of $7.95, USD).
By the way, I accept donations through paypal at my blog site now for anyone who wants to make me rich. It's that little button on the right up in the corner.
Feel free to give me your tithe. I promise to make sure it goes to the Lord's work. :)
Friday, February 02, 2007
But that's yesterday. On to the Harmony of the Spheres!
Ok, so there are spheres within spheres that make up the cosmos beneath the realm of God. There's a sphere that has the constellations on it, a sphere for each of the planets, a sphere for each of the elements. That's 12 spheres (hey, just like the number of astrological signs, and the number of tribes of Israel, and the number of apostles, and the hours in a day and in a night, what a freaking coincidence!).
This leaves us with nine spheres.
The uppermost sphere, that of the constellations, can be viewed as an influencing sphere as opposed to a governing sphere. Agrippa talks a bit about this, and I won't get too into details here, but suffice it to say that in my understanding of the NP cosmology, the sphere of the constellations is more like a barrier between the realms of the planetary governors (ending at the horizon of Saturn's Sphere) and the unknowable Realm of God (Light-Divine Darkness-the One). The constellations can be viewed as pinpricks in this barrier through which the infinite light enters the realms of sensation, guiding or feeding as it were, the planetary governors.
Now, what we've done here is divided the infinite universe into three parts. The material realm is composed of the four elemental spheres. The seven spheres of the planetary governors is the second part, ending at the barrier of the Sphere of the constellations. Then there's the infinite realm of God, the third part.
Only the realms of the Planetary Governors and the sphere of matter can be known and interacted with consciously. The higher realms may be experienced, but being before the utterance of the Word, they can't really be put into words.
The realms of the Planetary Governors exist as pure emanations of God. When viewing God they are passive, but when viewing the realm of Matter, they are active. Being pure in their essence, they are in perfect harmony with one another and with God.
Now I'd like to introduce a concept I've used on the blog before (and I don't claim to have created it), the Sphere of the Magician. Every one of us live in a bubble of perception. Lots of us have read various modern and classical interpretations of existence as being only that which can be sensed. Plato would have totally grokked Robert Anton Wilson, God rest his heathen soul. (I doubt Wilson could grok Plato though.)
This bubble of perception is our sphere within the material realm. The Emerald Tablet of Hermes, an excellent model of magickal operation on its own, bears the famous inscription "that which is above is like that which is below." Metaphysically speaking, we have a spiritual sphere of sensation as well as the physical sphere of sensation. They aren't really separated, but it's easier to think of them as parts than to try to understand the whole all at once. A seed in an orange doesn't look like an orange, and neither does the peel by itself, but they're still one thing.
The basic intent of the magician is to get their "sphere" into harmony with the other spheres. Neo-platonic philosophers had various ways of achieving this. Plotinus taught that you could instantly "get it" by realizing your race and value. He talks about denigrating the things of matter and exalting the things of spirit. He, and Porphyry, his student and biographer, believed that the way to reclaim your race and value was through Philosophy, and various forms of Asceticism. Later, some Gnostics and others would take the idea to the extreme. They believed that because matter distracted you from your goal of reuniting with God, then all matter must be inherently evil. Some went so far as to claim that the God that created Matter must have been evil.
Plotinus had another student that helped us out immensely as magicians who would rather do something more active than philosophize all day, and who wanted to participate in the matter-manifestation process in a more hands-on way. This guy was Iamblichus. He taught that theurgy, magickal arts and working with spirits were viable means of reuniting with the One, God. That's the core of this system I'm presenting here. There are various other branches of neo-Platonism, and lots to discuss and argue about, but as magicians working with the NP magickal system, the point is to harmonize our sphere with the spheres above, and through this harmony to join with God, accomplishing what later became known as the Great Work.