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Hermeticism, Christianity, Magick, Miracles

To: alt.magick.moderated,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.christnet,alt.religion.christian,talk.religion.misc,alt.consciousness.mysticism,alt.religion.gnostic
From: tyagi@houseofkaos.abyss.com (nocTifer)
Subject: Hermeticism, Christianity, Magick, Miracles (LONG)
Date: 17 Nov 1996 00:31:19 -0800

49961107 AA1  Hail Satan!

peace be upon you, my kin.

nocTifer:
#> #> is [Christian magick] anything but warmed-over Hermeticism? 

[preferred anonymity]:
#...what you mean by "Hermeticism", 

with a brief glance through the Kaushaus library I present to you my
best rendering, being but a humble student of said tradition and only
partially an initiate therein (COTO):

	_HERMETISM_  Doctrines or practices derived from the teachings
		of Hermes Trismegistus
	
	_HERMETISTS_ They were mystics, devoted to the writings of
		Hermes Trismegistus.  They constituted an esoteric
		sodality, whose purpose was to achieve mystical
		experience.

	_HERMETIC WRITINGS_ A body of writings, known as the Corpus
		Hermeticum, attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, who
		is identified with the Egyptian god Thoth.  The
		writings are dialogues between Hermes and his son
		Tat or between Hermes and Asclepius.  The first
		treatise in this corpus is called Poimandres.
		Together, these writings represent Hellenic
		mysticism.

	_HERMES TRISMEGISTUS_ Late name of Hermes (literally,
		'Hermes thrice greatest'), as identified with
		the Egyptian god Thoth.  He was the reputed
		author of all sacred books -- forty-two volumes
		subdivided into six groups, only parts of which
		have survived and been translated into English:
		*Poimandres* ('Perfect Sermon'), the basis of
		all later Hermetic literature; excerpts by
		Stobaeus; and fragments from Zosimus, Fulgentius,
		and the Church Fathers.  His name is also
		assigned to many works on magic and alchemy....

	_Dictionary of Satanism_, by Wade Baskin, Philosophical
		Library, NY, 1972; pp. 158-9.  [rearranged]
	_______________________________________________________


	_Hermetist_: A follower and propagator of the teachings
	of Hermes Trismegistus.

	_Hermes_: The ancient Greek god of herds, guardian of
	travellers, messenger of the gods, conductor of the
	dead to the underworld.  The Romans identified him
	with Mercury.  In Egypt, he was identified with
	Hermanubis, and chiefly with Thoth, the god of learning,
	and in the Roman imperial army he was worshipped as a
	revealer of divine wisdom by which men may become a
	new man, a Son of God.

	_Hermes Trismegistus_: The fabled author of Neo-Platonic,
	Judaic, Kabalistic, alchemical and astrological works,
	studied as sacred writings by the Egyptian priests.
	Identified with the Egyptian god Thoth.

	_Hermetic_: An adjective originally meaning "originated
	by Hermes Trismegistus or based on his teachings."  Now
	used to mean occult or esoteric in general.  (Also:
	*hermetical*.)  Used also as a noun meaning a student
	or pratitioner of alchemy or occultism or esoteric
	science.

	_Dictionary of Mysticism_, ed. by Frank Gaynor, Citadel
		Press, 1973; p. 77.  [slightly rearranged]
	________________________________________________________

the term 'Hermetic' or 'Hermeticism' has changed over time, as you
see within the quotes I've arranged here.  it used to be rather
strict, relating to Hermes-Thrice-Great, the reputed middle-eastern author
of learning and magick.  gradually it grew from Hellenistic mysticism
to incorporate a number of Gnostic currents, Neoplatonic, and a variety
of other influences and elements in its eclectic, pancultural, panreli-
gious persuasion.  

typically today when one speaks of 'Hermeticism' we are talking about
what could be called 'Christian esotericism': those traditions of
mysticism and magick which developed through the Renaissance and
appears to have been (at least one of) the esoteric elements of
predominantly Christian society.  it is represented well by the 
Rosicrucian, Theosophical, Golden Dawn, and Thelemic movements, 
though certainly not restricted to these.

there is a great deal of controversy over where the boundaries of
Hermeticism truly lie, especially since it is so eclectic, drawing
(some say borrowing or stealing) mystical teachings from a variety
of cultures and time periods, at times fabricating entire mythologies
about their origins or the purposes of techniques and practices which
it incorporates.

a great deal of what we know today of what the Matthews' have called
'the Hermetic Tradition of the Western Mystery Schools/Tradition'
appears to have developed within or around the turn of the last
century, and maintains a rather close association with the rejected
aspects of Christian esoteric culture (Gnostic, occult, alchemical,
whathaveyou).  writers such as Blavatsky, Bailey, Leadbeater,
Levi, Regardie, Mathers, Crowley, Lewis, Encausse (Papus), and
Agrippa have been absorbed and regurgitated in several instances,
at times presenting new formulations of previous mythos and technics.

the popular mythos today of the origin of the Hermetic tradition
usually draws out of the fabled city of Atlantis, probably from
Blavatsky's _Isis Unveiled_, with its 'root races', deluvian
catalysm, and global migration to the world's mystical/magical
power-spots (those identified within the tradition as it went along,
usually ancient centers of civilization and religion like Egypt, 
South and Central America, India, the British Isles, and other spots
which seemed attractive or compelling to the Europeans and Americans
who composed the mythos).

there are also Biblical and apocryphal texts which contributed
heavily to Hermeticism, sometimes those associated with the heretical
aspects of Christianity though incorporated into Jewish religion, 
such as the books of the Kabbalah, the Books of Enoch, and of course
a variety of recently-discovered Gnostic texts.

the term covers a broad subject-base, and the reason I mentioned it
is due to its incorporation of Christian elements which have not been
'approved' or 'authorized' by most Christian authorities.  the major
opponent through the years has been what we now call the Roman
Catholic Church, whose rites and disciplines itself incorporated what
it could as it absorbed and co-opted the cultures of the Roman Empire.

typically within Christian religious there is no intersection between
such things as 'magick' and Christianity, or if there is it is not
called by such terms (which are heretical or misunderstood) and is
practiced anyway (such as the Catholic Mass or rites of exorcism or
a variety of folk-magic which has been absorbed into Catholicism like
that of the botanicas -- usually love/charm, often called 'low magic').

therefore to talk about 'Christian magick' it suggests something which
for centuries has been denied and yet has existed in some form within
the Hermetic tradition that also incorporates aspects of religion and
mysticism which are repugnant to most Christians (Gnosticism for one,
the 'first heresy' of the old Church, but also things related to what
many Christians call 'Satanism').  

thus here, at Hermeticism, we find the beginning of the 'Christian 
magick' debate -- one which is not at all easily resolvable nor clear 
to this writer.


#and I also wonder what you think happens to it once it's "warmed over".  

it is presented to us in a new guise, 'reheated', yet consists of the
same materials which have been components of other, presumably (though
arguably not at all) *non*Christian mystical disciplines in a way that
leaves some of the taste lagging (by virtue of it not being contained
within its original breading).


#I generally associate Hermeticism with Renaissance magickians, many 
#of whom were Christian.  

the term 'Christian' is one that has been at issue for centuries within
the Western world.  what is required to qualify for this appellation
has varied from the times of the Early Church, and while I agree with
you that many Hermetic philosophers, mystics, magicians, did consider
themselves to be Christian, they were not considered such by the vast
majority of the Christian religious tradition due to their involvements
with matters arcane and 'diabolic'.

I would not dispute with you here what is the 'true definition' of the
term 'Christian' (since I prefer to leave this to the individual).  yet
I would mention that the greater majority of Christianity neither wants
nor has any association with Hermeticism or magick by virtue of their
perspectives on the world -- one which you and others like us may well
be helping to change.


#Christianity has a great deal to contribute to the history of 
#Hermeticism as I see it, and the assertion that the latter is 
#something completely discrete and separate which can later be 
#"warmed over" by Christians seems like an odd one to me.  
#Do you think that the history of Hermeticism proper ended with
#the publication of the Hermetica and that everything that happened after
#that was doing nothing other than the spiritual equivalent of popping it
#in the microwave?

my point was that the history of Hermeticism is fraught with rejection
and opposition by Christians as it attempted to operate within a
predominantly Christian society.  to a great extent the tradition of
Modern Science also grew up under the Hermetic Umbrella (there being
indeed some overlap and clash betwixt the presiding Church and these
innovators, like Bacon, Newton, Galileo and others).

Hermeticism is too broad, eclectic and diffuse to truly specify its
beginnings or endings.  we can arrange a band of 'contributing forces'
as to its inception (in things like Mystery Schools and various world
mysticisms), and we can trace these through the graduated and at times
oscillating development of the movement as it changed and grew.  of
*course* it did not die, and is enjoying a rennovation or resurgence
within the mid-to-late 20th century as well (I am an example of its
influences and vivacity).

my point about it being 'warmed-over' is as regards not acknowledging
that it incorporates a great diversity of religious currents, not
strictly Christian, and to attempt to ferret out those which, by our
own discernment, constitute 'Christian elements' strikes me as in some
measure contrary to the Hermetic synthesis and therefore a 'warming-over'
of a vibrant and eclectic esoteric social corpus.


#> I haven't seen anything besides the RC Mass which was said to be some
#> kind of 'Christian magick'.  sure, perhaps some Christians practice the
#> arts of magick, but this doesn't mean that anything which should be called
#> 'Christian magick' actually exists.

[re: Silver Chalice]
#This list was set up for Christian magickians.  Some of those magickians
#will consider their magick uniquely Christian, while saying that other
#kinds of magick are not Christian;  others will say that they are
#Christians who happen to do magick and that magick itself is not attached
#to any specific religion;  still others will say that magick becomes
#Christian if it is performed in the context of a Christian life or for
#Christian ends (whatever those may be) -- and this is not to mention the
#great numbers of people who consider themselves Christians *and* pagans
#and who are trying to fit their magickal practices into that context.

I'd place the latter in the broader category of 'Hermetics' (though they
might not on account of occulted originations of their religions).  due
their (truly 'our') eclectic and accepting involvments we break down the
cultural barriers between religious and mystical systems and fabricate
something cosmopolitan, global, and in a real sense 'ever-renewing'.


#...Christian magickians, and we're quite sure *they* exist.  

with this I agree strongly and was not attempting to suggest otherwise.


#Whether the *magick* that they perform is Christian or not is a topic 
#that I'm looking forward to seeing more discussion about.  

that was my intent in bringing it up, since it appears to be one of the
central elements to the elist, and perhaps one of the more controversial. 


#...you talk about the Roman Catholic Mass ...as if it's the only form 
#of magick that you have seen evidence for in discussions with Christians.  

it is the only form of magick which I have seen evidence for as being 
uniquely and categorically 'Christian' (aside from other RCatholic rites 
like exorcism, perhaps, though exorcism itself is not really something
peculiar to Christians), mostly by virtue of monopoly.


#The history of Christianity is full of miracles, though, wouldn't you 
#say?  Do you consider miracle workers to be magickians?  

I'm very skeptical.  I presume that the stories told by religious and
those involved in Hermeticism are quite often crafted to the predilections
of the writer, sometimes blown out of proportion, sometimes crafted
wholesale from imagination, sometimes twisted from its historical origin
to something we may, today, not really recognize for its essence.

what I take to be the mythology of Christianity is filled with miracles,
of course.  and this mythology has been crafted by the Christian
authorities which specified very strict distinctions between 'miracles'
and 'magick', theurgy (that God-working derived of the power of the
Christian god) and thaumaturgy (these days self-impelled and intentional
acts which supposedly craft or substantially suspend natural processes).
 
I don't personally make absolute judgements as to whether someone (even
myself) is a mage.  I do think that the term has acquired within the
Hermetic and even the Christian tradition from which it draws some very
important qualifications.  the Rosicrucians and Golden Dawn members
have crafted the class of 'Magus' into a comparable status to Buddhist
bodhisattvas or arahats (adepts of certain spiritual accomplishment),
and members of various religious traditions like Moses and Jesus, Krishna
and Gautama Buddha have been placed in relatively equal positions.

as I said, I am more skeptical than most Hermetics, presuming most of
this to be on the level of mythology  -- that is, no longer strictly historic
but containing imperative and essential (often personal) information 
about the religious and mystical traditions to which it is associated.
firstly, I would dispute that what is claimed is historic.  secondly, I 
would say that the deeds described by the individuals acclaimed
for having 'worked miracles' can be seen to have been mages, though they
are usually not by Christians, who have traditionally opposed the entire
notion and practice of magick as being something heretical or evil.


#...does anyone have any suggestions for why miracles have declined in 
#importance for many Christians since the Middle Ages?  

the further back in time we look, the easier it is for the stories about
those periods to be filtered and changed by those who have written about
them.  it is this reason that I have a great deal of doubt concerning
the powers and abilities and statusses of men and women who are often
described as working miracles and feats of magick.  

it appears to me that there are two major explanations for the declination
of the occurrence of miracles and their importance within Christian
tradition.  the first is that they were always myths, stories of important
content but no historical validity, blown out of proportion as most legends
and tall-tales tend to be, yet (as associated with religion) containing
very essential teachings and symbols for our benefit.  with the arrival
of Modern Science, the printing press and technology whereby information
and 'news' or 'reporting' becomes more difficult to craft to one's
advantage or liking, so we begin to see less evidence for miracles having
occurred in recent times.  

with less miracles presumably happening, more people educated by 
institutions which at times seriously scrutinize and at others even 
refute the notion of the possibility of the crafting of arts and 
sciences beyond (what we take to be) natural processes, it is small 
wonder that within the religions that are impacted by this there
would be a gradual decline in the belief and interest in these fables.

presuming that my skepticism is unwarranted and that the stories told have
a strong basis in fact, then another logical conclusion is that there has
been some change in the cosmologic substratum.  many magicians and mystics
have attempted to describe this look-back problem, wherein around them
they see no miracles or fabulous powers yet previously there appear to
have been deeds of renown and spectacularity that fill one with awe.  they
have proposed such things as the limitation of available god- or magical-
energies, the withdrawing of such potencies from access to human beings
(by virtue of condition of consciousness, maturity or moral fiber), and the
decline of the source (god, nature, psychic strength, etc.) of that same
power.  whatever the explanation, the motive is the same: to somehow
explain why it is that the powers and abilities of the heroes of the past
do not appear to be evident in 'today's world' (whenever this may have
been to the writers of those above-mentioned theories).


peace be with you, my kin.

nagasiva@luckymojo.com 
nocTifer

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