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.


  1. Pretty much.

    I do fiercely believe that the asshole griefing Morgan needs to be serenaded with a Carly Simon song in a manner consistent with US psyops tactics, so 5 million quatloos to the one who makes that happen.

    Attacking the interpretation of a translated text on the basis of faulty translation is a straw man of the first order. If it were a legitimate criticism, then Morgan's griefer would have provided a more specific correction than "you're wrong." Which isn't a correction so much as an unsubstantiated claim - he'd need to prove how Morgan's wrong, or else it's just griefing.

    Oh, yeah - homeless mindset = debroulliard turned inwards (IME). What can I do to get to get through the day, because if I don't I die... It's a useful lesson to learn, but one time through should be enough, y'know?

  2. I think you need a real German to talk to. I'm not a real German, but I lived there 15 years ago and spoke it then.

    1. Keiner solle sich einer anderen Beschäftigung hingeben, als Kranke zu pflegen und zwar ganz umsonst.
    I believe this means "None should give himself to another Business/employment than caring for the sick, and that, for free".
    What that means in an historical or magical context is up to you. I notice that there are many explanatory paragraphs ahead of this, and a real German might be able to give you some better context for the whole document.

  3. @Anne, you're probably right. I know some Swedes who might know some German. I'm surprised I don't have any Germans piping up, I get hits from Germany frequently. Hmm. Hello Germans?

    @Keith, it's information that can be applied outside the context in which it was originally gathered. Modified, adapted, and repurposed towards other ends.

    The entrepreneurial mindset of the débrouillard is what appealed to me, the thinking outside the box, seeing potential income in all transactions, though not necessarily in cash. I'm a fat suburbanite, but that doesn't mean I can't apply the resourcefulness of the street here in my life. Just because I live in the same neighborhood as people who will never do more for themselves than work a job, save, and retire hoping Social Security is there for them doesn't mean I have to live like them, shopping at Walmart for clothes that fall apart in a couple of washes, banking at BoA, sucking power off the corporate grid, consuming gluttonously on credit and wondering why I'm always broke.

    The corporate system owns society. To get ahead, I stop giving them my money. They've got the system rigged in their favor to keep me broke if I'm stupid. If I'm débrouillard, I keep the profits of my work.

  4. I think that the rules of the RC Brotherhood has to be read in the light of Fr. C. R. C:s alleged background in a monastery or religious community. You were actually on to something when you mentioned the hippie commune of your past.

    As far as I can see none of the Fraters mentioned in Fama are described as married or responsible for the wellbeing of a family.

    The first Church in Jerusalem, described in Acts chapters 2, 4 and 5, lived with property in common, while, for instance, the early Church in Corinth maintained a lifestyle with private property and voluntary donations.

    In the middle ages religious communities, such as the Franciscan friars, the Dominican friars and the Augustinian hermits (not the canons who were allowed certain liberties, and whose chapters often owned real estate), read Acts as a model for their common life, rented (not owned) their common buildings, and their only allowed income was donations from wealthy sympathizers in the outside world. The religious community provided its members with the means necessary, but the members didn't have any private property themselves. If you can rely on common property you are free to work with whatever is needed, without monetary compensation. Most Dominicans worked at the newly founded universities. The daily work of Franciscans and Augustinian hermits was more varied, although many of them ended up as lecturers too. They wore (and wear) distinctive habits, so that you can recognize which order or congregation a Brother belongs too (Franciscans in shades of brown or grey, Dominicans in white and black, Augustinians in black, Carmelites in white and brown).

    I think that these mendicant orders were the model for the author of Fama, who envisioned a theosophically inclined (and I here mean inspired by Gutmann, Studion, Campanella and Boehme, not the Blavatskyites founded almost 300 years later) Lutheran (or perhaps ecumenical) religious community of unmarried men with common property. Your thoughts about the source of their means are food for thought: Thank you for these. Unlike the Roman Catholic friars the Fraters were not supposed to wear a distinctive habit - probably a Lutheran attitude, but I suppose that you may find a symbolic level in that rule too.

  5. s anonymous alluded to, you need the context of the times to understand what 'employment' or 'occupation' meant. It isn't as today where everyone is required a job to survive. Many lived simple lives on farms, others monasteries, others may live on the grace of the rich or rulers (such as artists). So what would an occupation mean in that time? It could mean a profession where you need to dedicate your life and study (this would make sense in that the FF would be cautioning against deep study of other topics - except healing which goes with RC studies). The line may be more about dedicating yourself solely to RC studies than about employment. Just need the context of the times to dig deeper.

  6. Good comment on a BS social club. For the whole world is CAPITALISTIC!!!!!. JOHN

  7. Second attempt: I love how people who have never had to sleep rough, or chosen to, comment on how wonderful it can be to go and be a vagabond living off the Universe.

    I did a similar thing nearly ten years ago, spent a couple of months with an evangelical Christian group who were literally living in the hands of God - no money income, no fixed accommodation, just squatting where they could and accumulated blankets where they couldn't. I joined up with them by choice, not because they converted me, but because I was already on my path and wanted to see how others were doing it.

    Yeah, it sucked. There were all sorts of boons, as you say, but I prefer magick to give me results that are slightly more comfortable. Example:

    Back then, we were seriously on the verge of starving, no food or money and we had two days left in the place we'd been staying. I went through slightly more dangerous channels than usual (involving possession and other hilarity) and about twenty minutes later, a guy called out of a window to us if we wanted a load of frozen food. Apparently, his freezer had broken down, a new one had been delayed until the next day, so he had loads of food that was defrosting that he had no way of eating on his own. We ate like kings for those two days on someone else's cooker, and were okay for the next week or so.

    Compare that to August, when I ran around 1600 miles in ten days, performed complex magical rituals and initiations and asked for my expenses to land £3500 overnight unexpectedly - thanks Zadkiel! - I think it's pretty obvious which is more comfortable.

    In regards to the professing to be a healer thing, that does remind me of my dad (and his dad, and his dad before him...) who performed various healings that I saw and who told me it'd been going on a long time. He was always a fairly devout Anglican, but our family comes from Spain (like plenty of grimoires) and we've always had this ability to lay on hands. He accepted when I was doing other magicks and stuff, before I moved out, but I know he was worried when I called myself anything other than a healer.

    I think it may have something to do with the perceptions around the world of those who do magick; after necromancers and exorcists were driven underground, cunning folk and healers came in their place. Maybe it's fine to profess to be a healer and cure the sick, but also do other work on the side. Just a thought.

  8. @Sef,

    Yeah on everything. :)

    I think we have the ability to get the kind of wealth and sustenance that we need in our lives. I'm not saying for sure that this is how it is for everyone all the time, but you needed 3500 in your life, and you got it. Likewise, you needed food and you got it. There were other ways to get it, and the degree of "need" was subjective, but in both cases, there was need, and it was met. Necessary Wealth.


Thanks for your comments, your opinions are valued, even if I disagree with them. Please feel free to criticize my ideas and arguments, question my observations, and push back if you disagree.