Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fama Fraternitas Fun

One of my genuinely favorite Golden Dawn bloggers, Morgan Drake Eckstein, has been writing about his interpretation of the Fama Fraternitas as it applies to making money on the Great Work. He started with an analysis of the English translation that earned him some grief, and then he followed up with a post about the how he's been told the English translation is flawed, and he makes some observations about whether the modern Rosicrucian (RC) movement in English speaking countries* is flawed as a result.

The posts sparked my interest. I've always been interested in the subject of money for the Great Work, especially because I make money off the skills I've gathered in pursuit of the Great Work. I also love a good manuscript mystery. That's my favorite part of grimoire and Bible study, getting into the root languages and being an amateur archaeological word explorer, like a linguistic Indiana Jones. What I lack in training and experience, I make up for in enthusiasm.

Specifically, he dissects the first two of the six rules "the original brotherhood bound itself by." The first is one that gets quoted a lot, and the second he applies to his interpretation of the first to support his argument:
From the English Manuscript Morgan quoted:
First, That none of them should profess any other thing than to cure the sick, and that gratis. 
Second, None of the posterity should be constrained to wear one certain kind of habit, but therein to follow the custom of the country.
Morgan masterfully reinterprets the first to mean that it's ok to be more than a pro bono doctor if you're a RC. He performed with the prowess of a professional Semantiad.** I'd have given him at least a 9.3 if it were an official competition.

Then the questions of the German manuscript's true meaning came up, and that's the part in the story where I showed up. I found this online version of the Gemran manuscript, and then I used Google Translate to render this result:
First No one should indulge in any occupation, to maintain as sick and do so in vain.
Thank you So Much, Google Tranlate! That's awesome.

So looking at that, I thought there was room for reinterpretation. You can pick apart the literal meaning of root words, add different endings on them and look at how the roots are used in other words, as Morgan did in his analysis, and with a little effort I can see how someone reading the German version could walk away with something different than the English version.

No one should indulge in any occupation? So no working for a living? Works for me!

To Maintain as sick and do so in vain? What the living fuck? I got nothing on that, and I needed better sources. So I googled "online German to English Translator" and ended up at PROMT-Online, pasted in the First Rule from the Fama, and it rendered this result:
Nobody should dedicate itself to another employment, than to maintain sick people namely completely free of charge.
Aha! Now we're getting somewhere. PROMT-Online has different intelligence driving it, and rendered something a little more comprehensible, and still used the same words. It makes sense! The English version was right all along.

The Fama's First rule is simply, "You shouldn't have any kind of job, or do any kind of work, except to heal the sick, and do it for free." I think it's literal, and stands alone. As such, I don't think Morgan's application of the Second Rule, though highly skilled, applies at all. But for the simple literal translation to work in practice, something's got to pay the fucking rent. We've got bills to pay and cats to feed, right?

I think there are two ways that would make this simple literal translation work. The first way it would work is if all  Rosicrucians are independently wealthy. If they've done the Work and have been through the Chemical Wedding, they'll have the secret of the Philosopher's Stone, and they won't exactly need any money now, will they? The Philosopher's Stone turns lead into gold! All the gold they could ever need.

That's my preferred source of their independent wealth.

It could also, however, be that the RCs were a fraternity of the wealthy elite, a gentlemen's philanthropist club, like when Bill Gates and Warren Buffet had that private billionaire's club meeting and asked them to pledge to give away half their wealth either before they died or at their death. Still cool, but not as romantic to me as having the Philosopher's Stone as the source of independent wealth.

The second way a literal interpretation of the Fama's First rule would work is if they just didn't worry about it. In my youth, I was a big fan of the idea that the Universe will provide. "If you need it," I said, "it will come. If it's not there, you don't need it." Another favorite phrase was "The Universe doesn't give unfunded mandates." Or "If the Universe wants me to do that shit, it can goddamned well pay for it."

And yeah, U2's famous phrase, "My God isn't short on cash."

The RCs could have just been wandering hippies, living off the things God provides. That would be a pretty extreme lifestyle, completely and totally based on faith. They were, let's not forget, devout Christians. In recent conversations on ethics with Jason, we were discussing the Sermon on the Mount. Having just recently reread it, I couldn't help but be reminded of Matthew 6: 25-26:

25 Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment?
26 Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they?

There's been a ton of debate in the Christian world about whether this should be literal or figurative, and I won't go into it here, but the fact is, some people live as if it's literal, and they do manage to survive, and at times, to thrive. I'm not as good with other religions, but I believe this basic spiritual truth manifests in many different traditions. Throw it all away and let God provide all your needs, according to His riches and glory. Go be an itinerant monk who wanders around helping people, penniless, but always able to somehow get by. Like Cain in Kung Fu.

It's a radical notion, and one better suited to the young without responsibilities to meet. I did it for a while, but honestly, it sucks. The universe did provide, but not at the quality to which I'd become accustomed. There are times now when I look back through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia and think if I didn't have kids, I'd live that way now...

But the fact is I went hungry a lot, could barely sleep,*** and ate a lot of food loaded with extra salt peter at shelters. I joined up with a clan of old hippies on a commune in Texas for a while, and that sucked too. Communal living. I still shudder thinking about it. Everyone in your space all the time! Feh. Give me doors.

The fact is, I'm too materialistic to want to live that way myself. And there's my family. They deserve better, and I've got the skills, talent, and intelligence to be able to provide better. The Universe does indeed provide, but it provides nuts, berries, and meat that runs faster than you do, and if the weather's shit and there's no vegetables, you're going to die. And that's ok with the Universe. It's balanced, natural, and harmonious. Spiritually sublime.

Fuck. That. Shit.

So, my opinion is that the Fama's First Rule really means you shouldn't work for a living, you should only heal people, and you should do it for free if you're a Rosicrucian. It's a great rule, because for it to be true, some very powerful magic has to take place: either the you've got endless wealth at your fingertips, or you've got to be completely in harmony with the materialization process of the Universe.

And that's ONE of the reasons I don't consider myself a Rosicrucian. Like other Mystery traditions, I think it's got some cool stuff in it, but it's not a system I'd throw myself into completely. My studies and practices have a lot of shared truths with those of the Rosicrucian tradition, and I can use the images of RC to interpret my experiences in Hermetic Initiations, but that's because my tradition and theirs developed in the Hermetic current. They're a formalized facet of the current that is different than mine.

I think the First Rule is the goal, to perform magic until you no longer need to work a profession to make a living, and you can devote your time to healing the sick without charging anyone anything. I sometimes think I'm at a point where I could do that, but honestly, I'm afraid to try to live that way. There are too many people depending on me to take that large of a risk.

So I keep my job, and I sell magical services and consecrated talismans and lessons, and I try to get ahead enough to not have to work for a living so I can do this full time, free, without jeopardizing my kids' future. I'm making progress. I can see how it would be possible to conjure for a living, conjuring the things we need directly and then just having it sort of work in our favor, but it would take discipline I'm only just now developing. Maintenance. Strategy.

If I can find out how to just manifest the things we need consistently, I'm there. I'm all over it. Until then, I'm not an RC, though this research has me comparing the rest of the verses around Matthew 6:25-26 and comparing it to the rules of the Fama. Rule 2 is reflected in verse 28, for example. And Morgan said the RCs are forbidden from living beyond the time God gives them, and verse 27 says something about how worrying about it doesn't add a day to your life. Interesting parallels there.

* I'm including the United States, even though there is some debate from the UK about whether Americans speak English or not.

** Like an Olympiad, but more meaningful.

*** Little known fact, homeless people get very little sleep. That lifestyle is hard, and frightening, and highly stressful. You can't always trust the people you're with, and you can't afford to sleep deeply. It's high, high stress, all the time. And it's dirty as shit.