Saturday, April 07, 2012

The Value of the Corpus Hermeticum to Hermetic Magicianss

With the GD posts, I've expanded my audience a bit. I got a message on facebook from someone who liked the post encouraging magicians to do magic (I'm being nice about what I actually said), and during the course of the conversation, I was reminded how little about actual Hermetic Magic the Golden Dawn teaches.

Don't get me wrong, you learn a lot of magic in the GD. All kinds of rites and rituals with cool anagrams, and they're all fundamentally founded on Hermetic principles. But you're not encouraged to actually read the source material for these basic principles, and you can't understand what you're doing without that key piece of info.

All the rites and rituals you learn in the Golden Dawn are based on some very old Hermetic tenets, practices designed to accomplish the Hermetic Great Work, taking you from the Black Phase of alchemy all the way through to the Projection Phase, where you're using the Philosopher's Stone to accomplish miracles and make the world a better place. The basic process is laid out in The Emerald Tablet of Hermes (yep, Hermes), and the Corpus Hermeticum.

But the core material gives you the fundamental framework you need to really understand what you're up to.

And really, you should understand the basics of Neo-Platonism to really grok the Corpus Hermeticum, but start with the Corpus, then go back to the NeoPlatonic basics.

I've actually written a handy guide to the Neoplatonic Basics, and I explain how the Corpus Hermeticum makes sense from there. You should read the posts, or you can read the eBook. The posts are on my blog, but you have to scroll all the way to the bottom to see the first post, then work your way up. The eBook is easier. It's all free.

If you read through the entire Corpus Hermeticum, you'll be reading the oldest documents your Order can claim. There's frequent kerfuffle about documents in your Orders, so I would think these would be pretty important to not only read, but actually understand. They were written sometime between the first and third centuries after Christ, long before the Kircher model of the Tree of Life was made, long before the Tarot card images were formed, reduced to the number of letters of the alephbeit and pasted to the paths of that Kircher model of the Tree. If you actually read through them, you'll know more about the Hermetic path to ascension and becoming a living, breathing god than most of the Outer Heads of the various GD and GD-based Orders available today.

But we only have fragments of most of the Corpus Hermeticum. The most complete chapter, and coincidentally the most important and useful for beginners, is the Divine Pymander. Read it. Read it today. Don't put it off, it's got every Secret of the Golden Dawn magical system laid out pure and simple for anyone to understand, and it's really beautiful.

After you've finished that, move on to The Emerald Tablet of Hermes. Remember what Pymander says the path to returning to the Source is, and read it as if it's an instruction manual, and a description of what you're supposed to be doing as a magician.

Read through this stuff, and note the lack of QBL involved. Despite what you've been taught, early Hermeticists had little to do with KBL. The integration of the systems came much later, around the time of DeLeon. Back in the Hermeticist's day, the KBL available anywhere outside the kibbutz was at BEST the Sefer Yetzirah. Hermeticists used Hebrew names of God, but it tended to look like it was copy-pasted in without any real regard to the source. Sort of like the worst of the early 90's Neo-Pagan descriptions of the "Celtic" gods and goddesses.

Once you've read through that stuff, and it really doesn't take that long, you should move on to Agrippa. REally read the stuff he has to say about magic, and the practice thereof. Keeping in mind the Hermetic Cosmology, study the Scales of the Numbers, especially the Number Ten. By the time Agrippa was writing, QBL and Hermetic magic had been pretty firmly wed together, so you'll recognize a lot of the stuff in there. Book 3 will seem most familiar to you, as it deals directly with Ceremonial Magic, but the first two books explain the framework a lot better.

Pace yourself, no one reads Agrippa through in a day. It's good bathroom reading material.

Once you start wading through the source material, a lot of what you're doing in the GD will begin to make a lot more sense. You may also find that a lot of what you're doing does not make sense in a Hermetic context at all.

If you find yourself wondering why the heck you're going through all the stuff of the GD, when the Hermetic Texts make the GD system look like a Rube Goldberg device with 100 extra steps just to make toast, you may find my courses in Hermetic Magic right up your alley. It's a straight shot through to whatever Grade in the GD establishes you as a living, breathing god, without all the drama. It's self-led, but there are forums for discussion available.

Please note, the courses are still in progress, years after I started them. There's a LOT of information to write up. Currently, about 90% of the Black Work course is complete, 95% of the White Work course is complete, and the Green Work... Well, it's in process, but it comes with all seven of the Gates Rites, which will let you get to work on the Green phase of the alchemical process.

I'm not trying to get you out of the Golden Dawn with any of this. The GD makes a lot of people happy, and provides them with the tools they need. Reading the Corpus Hermeticum and the Emerald Tablet will only add to your overall understanding of Great Work.


  1. I can vouch for what RO is saying here. I did exclusively Golden Dawn work until I started working with RO's stuff -- it opened things out, like going from 2D to 3D... the 2D isn't lost, but now it's part of a much bigger (and clearer) picture.


  2. Arrrgghh!! Drowning in Ye Olde English!

    It's true that sometimes I feel like I'm working backwards through my Magickal education. Its too bad Hermes didn't have a blog with a working knowledge of Internet memes to keep my ADD occupied.

    As soon as I can figure out my latest pressing issue which is how to successfully banish any pesky or unruly Nephesh hanging out in my living room, ye olde Elburp is useless here, I will be tackling the source materials. Can't exactly call myself a Hermetic Magician if I don't even know whats in the Emerald Tablet of Hermes now can I?

  3. I definitely feel, Frater RO, as if your course has elevated my magical practice substantially — yours and Jason Miller's Strategic Sorcery course go together supremely well. Thanks.

    And you're right, @Anonymous: It definitely takes the GD work from 2D to 3D... Add in Gordon's recent bit on sigil magic, and the process of requesting the seals and names of spirits suddenly takes on all kinds of new potentials, with or without LBRP.

  4. I could not agree with your more, RO. There is a huge difference between doing a ritual by the numbers and really understanding the cosmology and inner workings of the system you are operating.

    The Corpus Hermeticum helped my own practice and understanding immensely. So much so that it changed not just how I do, but how I think about Magic. It shifted my world view by far for the better.

    TBH, for all the LBRPs I've done in my time, I only really appreciated them, and the GD in general AFTER I delved in to the source material and really read up on the history of Hermeticism. Before then it was very opaque, and confusing to me as a beginner in the early 90's.

  5. It is one of the things that pisses me off that few have actually read the Hermetica... next to those who dont understand what Plato was banging on about either.

  6. In my personal studies I try to do something like you laid out. It requires a lot of research though, so it is more time consuming than having a group teach you what they think are the important parts.
    I haven't looked into your course work yet as my hands are full at the moment - but that is a possible for the future. Although, I do have a problem with the christian aspect. By that I mean the problem is in me, not your teaching of it. I grew up in the south US where the bible is taken literally. I bought into all that till I got into high school and started learning no way it could be literal. Then after I escaped the church I saw, and still see, how much damage the christians are doing to the world. So even though I can now see the mystical side of the teachings, the root of mental matrix is all the other stuff. And really the other stuff is such an impediment to get to the mystical I can't do it. So I need to find another mythos to frame that same mystical teaching into.

  7. Magicians should be studying all of the old sourceworks, not just the Corpus Hermeticum. Agrippa, Dee's diaries, and Qabalistic sourceworks like the Sepher Yetzirah, Bahir and Zohar, should all be part of the syllabus, not to mention the various grimoires and other magical texts. These are essential reading regardless of which tradition one follows within Western occultism.


  8. Thanks, RO. This blog inspired me to think deeper about Magic and Power in general.

    I actually don't think you'll get anywhere unless you make the effort to understand the tradition you are trying to work from...

    The trap the GD fell into - or deliberately put up for its students? - is to teach a lot of the WHAT but almost nothing of the HOW or WHY.


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.