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ReConstructing Hermeticism?


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#61 AEternitas

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 05:11 PM

Some well made points Eugene, the concept of the "safe return of the soul" is at the heart of Hermetic thought. But, in removing this concept, wasn't Aristotle removing what was essentially the more superstitious of the concepts surrounding the Platonic cosmology?

#62 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 06:16 PM

AEternitas said:

Some well made points Eugene, the concept of the "safe return of the soul" is at the heart of Hermetic thought. But, in removing this concept, wasn't Aristotle removing what was essentially the more superstitious of the concepts surrounding the Platonic cosmology?

Maybe so. I don't know if that was his conscious intent though, and I don't think the Neoplatonist's understanding of the term was "superstitious" at all. I think they recognized something fundamentally human in Plato's schema, and I think they were right on the money. I'll elaborate.

While Plato may have thought he was describing the world as it is (a debatable point), his schema, while not a great basis for modern physics does nicely describe the way the human mind encodes, organizes, and uses information according to current research in psychology and cognitive nerusocience. Plato's cosmology is described as a Top-down construct, but its counterpart in the human mind is built from the bottom-up. That is, we experience the world as it is and in effect we induce semantic networks, complex systems of nested categories, and other cognitive constructs that, roughly, mirror the platonic schema. This is the reason that we know a dog is a dog even if its a breed we've never seen before. We've induced semantic knowledge from our accumulated experience of dogs that represents something like essential dogness, which roughly equates to the Platonic Form: DOG.

Platonic cosmology proper assumes that the Forms or Ideas existed first, always exsited, and that everything that becomes the world of experience emanates from there. There is a logical argument to be made for that, and in fact someone made it here abouts some time back in another thread and another context. But the point I want to make is that the Neoplatonists, it seems to me, recognized that the schema is more imporant than the specific contents, and even more imporantly, that the schema is reflected in the human complex, but as a bottom-up rather than a top-down structure. From there the focus of the Neoplatonists turns to methods and modes of experiencing the successively higher levels of the schematic structure, presumably to its ultimate end/beginning point: the Form HUMAN.

While it's true that this presumed end/beginning point remains somewhat outside the realm of Aristotleian reasoning, and "superstitious" if one wants to think of it that way, to the Neoplatonist, the point was for the Theurgist to explore the structure directly, and personally, through the sacred rites, which refers to ritually induced states of ecstasy.

So from my point of view, what the magician interacts with on these explorations, the spirits (if you will) of the various realms one finds within the hierarchical scheme that defines the individual's consciousness, are in fact inferences of what should exist, generated from ones accumulated experience of the world. Within this context, if we take the idea that whatever may potentially exist in this world, currently exists as a potential (a Platonic Form), our experience of the world is enough for us to infer its essential nature and all of the conditions that would have to align in order for it to come into being in the here and now.

Subsequently, so the Neoplatonists would tell us, we can through the sacred rites, experience all such preliminary necessary conditions, etc., directly, first hand. And it makes sense to me, because in order to know that a dog is a dog, we had to extract essential dogness and infer everything between that construct and the dog we happen to see at the moment. It's there as part and parcel of what generates our conscious experience.

We might question the actual value of having such ecstatic experiences, granting, as I've suggested here, insight into the inferences we make about the world and how it works, by discussing it to death. The real answer, of course, can only come from having the experiences.
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#63 Jeremiah Fuglseth

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 08:35 AM

I think one important point I had to make was not expressed, and it really ties together where I am coming from. So, let's assume that the name Hermetic came from Hermopolis, which was named after Hermes, who the Greeks thought was Thoth, and renamed Thoth Hermes, or vice versa...It doesn't really matter that much which way it happened. Evidence Points to the actual Existence of an Entity that went by the Name of Hermes, who appeared to be in possession of SupraNormal Power. What happens if we base our supposition around the idea that Hermes Trismegistus was just as Exoteric as it was Esoteric? The whole Ballgame changes.
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#64 Poimandres

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 04:21 PM

Jeremiah Fuglseth said:

I think one important point I had to make was not expressed, and it really ties together where I am coming from. So, let's assume that the name Hermetic came from Hermopolis, which was named after Hermes, who the Greeks thought was Thoth, and renamed Thoth Hermes, or vice versa...It doesn't really matter that much which way it happened. Evidence Points to the actual Existence of an Entity that went by the Name of Hermes, who appeared to be in possession of SupraNormal Power. What happens if we base our supposition around the idea that Hermes Trismegistus was just as Exoteric as it was Esoteric? The whole Ballgame changes.


I don't think anyone is arguing that the entity known as Thoth/Hermes belongs to a specific moment in time. Even if he does (i.e. is tangible and exoteric), nothing changes. The thing that we must keep in mind however, is that when discussing Hermeticism we are talking about a specific tradition. Revealed knowledge (and its source - your "SupraNormal Power") has and will always exist independently. What makes it a tradition is the vessels into which this knowledge is imparted - the human experience of interpreting and then passing on that knowledge.

This is why the cultural context is so important when discussing traditions. We as humans are limited by the ability to receive and pass on knowledge based on our time period and available technology. For example imagine 100-years ago discussing the ability to instantly receive mail messages, or have discussions such as this in a virtual forum. Without the technology there to form the foundation for such thoughts, such ideas would not even make there way into the collective conscious; much less even if an individual does have a sudden insight of this future how do they pass on this information to others or even fully understand what they saw?

The tradition of Hermeticism is a distinct tradition because it relies on the available reservoir of symbolic forms and philosophic ideas of the time (from the Egyptian and Greek cultures) to interpret and eventually pass on this received wisdom. This is what makes it Hermetic and not, lets say Kabbalistic. Tradition is merely a lens in which to understand a transcendent truth. The truth on its own cannot be comprehended outside an irrational experience (gnosis), even then the rational human mind is limited by how much of that information it can store and make sense of based on what it can extract from the collective conscious of its time.

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#65 Kuroyagi

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 04:53 PM

To me Hermetic thought is triangular and therefore creative or evloving thought, meaning that to me it would be Hermetic to pick out some of Aristotles' thinking that is productive to my development (=mutation)- e.g. empiricism, structural order, ethics- refute other points and again deal with Plato likewise- for me: interesting in relation to QBL-influences, hierarchy, questions of abstraction, anamnesis (un-forgetting). To use what he likes and what is practical for him: So the wise man accepts the one and refuses the other.

p.s. since Plato is overly emphasized in many an occultish discussion I would like to recommend this inspiring book by Paul Feyerabend that makes one interested in Aristotleian thought, too. (note: Aristotle was the big shot in the Middle Ages, heavily used by the Christian, scholastic philosophers, and Plato again strongly resurfaced in the Renaissance, that's also why many occultists, narrow-minded and anti-Christian that they are- spurn Aristotle even though many have only read him in secondary sources.)

#66 Jeremiah Fuglseth

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 07:20 PM

Poimandres said:

I don't think anyone is arguing that the entity known as Thoth/Hermes belongs to a specific moment in time. Even if he does (i.e. is tangible and exoteric), nothing changes. The thing that we must keep in mind however, is that when discussing Hermeticism we are talking about a specific tradition. Revealed knowledge (and its source - your "SupraNormal Power") has and will always exist independently. What makes it a tradition is the vessels into which this knowledge is imparted - the human experience of interpreting and then passing on that knowledge.

This is why the cultural context is so important when discussing traditions. We as humans are limited by the ability to receive and pass on knowledge based on our time period and available technology. For example imagine 100-years ago discussing the ability to instantly receive mail messages, or have discussions such as this in a virtual forum. Without the technology there to form the foundation for such thoughts, such ideas would not even make there way into the collective conscious; much less even if an individual does have a sudden insight of this future how do they pass on this information to others or even fully understand what they saw?

The tradition of Hermeticism is a distinct tradition because it relies on the available reservoir of symbolic forms and philosophic ideas of the time (from the Egyptian and Greek cultures) to interpret and eventually pass on this received wisdom. This is what makes it Hermetic and not, lets say Kabbalistic. Tradition is merely a lens in which to understand a transcendent truth. The truth on its own cannot be comprehended outside an irrational experience (gnosis), even then the rational human mind is limited by how much of that information it can store and make sense of based on what it can extract from the collective conscious of its time.

First, thank you once again for such a well thought out post on the topic. I may disagree with certain points that you make, but the thinking and learning I have received so far just due to this thread is amazing, and this Thanks is to everyone. I would argue that In Deed we do not need to make up ceremonies to pass on the experience of The Mystery ( and we are on the same boat as to it's being less colored before being put in to a vessel ), and I do not feel that I would be going too far in saying most of the people on this board feel that it is something Shared between us all, and Experienced and Manifested differently through the mixture of the Original Substance with the Cultural Structure, Individual Reason, etc. The Point now really comes to the front; how much do you suppose running around waving wands, chanting names, burning sacrifices of stuff, all of that , do you think is pertinent to this Source of all Power; beyond Acquiring the Attention of an Individual to Focus on the Idea that Reality is Mutable? I know I am totally incorrect by trying to put my self in the Place of a Deity, even for analogy, but here goes; if I was this Deity, I would not want silly humans to do much else than run around, play games, build cool NON WAR stuff, have awesome fist fighting brawls to settle problems, breed, eat all kinds of food, etc. The reason behind this is totally apparent. I am sure we all know why I would even act like this, because I doubt that there is more than one or two of us on this board that would really want to Create Pain in a World that did not have any. This Completely conforms with Any explanation of the Doctrine of Free Will, Satanic to Christian, and Everything In Between. In short, the simple way of putting the above, is that in my Model, the fact that we should be here is evidenced by the fact that we are. The fact that every thing appears to feel is evidence that the Source Feels also, or at least understands the concept. If we act from feelings of not wanting to be here, the Source will probably be Offended. Primitive, but Accurate. I didn't really go any where too arguable there.
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#67 Jeremiah Fuglseth

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 09:25 PM

Caliban said:

I am totally open to the authors of the Hermetic Texts having been in possession of ideas arising in much older periods of history (or pre-history). At the time they were written, I believe that heiroglyphs could still be read - Under the Ptolmeys (who were in fact Greeks, descended from a close colleague of Alexander the Great), there was an effort on behalf of the foreign rulers to respect the ancient culture. Hence the Rosetta Stone, where the same message is inscribed in three different modes of writing.

To a certain extent (that is, without going so far as to say it specifically prefigured Christianity) I do believe in a "perennial philosophy". Occultism is in large part a perpetuation of this other way of knowing, of thinking about the world, which has never really gone extinct because it fulfills a human need. And its roots are as old as language, as old a culture - both things far older than writing. Manly P. Hall is either speaking metaphorically, or drawing illustrative examples, but the information he presents cannot be regarded as solid fact. It is traditional, and he is in good faith passing on information that was told as if it were true. But as the old song tells us, "it ain't necessarily so".

The legends, or mythic history, do have value in perpetuating ideas, engaging the imagination, striking a resonance deep in the psyche, and I don't feel they need to be swept away, but we need to be able to be of two minds simultaneously - thinking critically about all such claims on the one hand and simply drinking in the timeless wonder (which is in its own way quite real) on the other.

This brings up an interesting point about Sourcing. It is obvious that for it to have any real application as a tool, Multitudes of sources have to be cross referenced, and some discarded. Is it sheer non compliance with the Idea Set Forth compared to the greater that is the standard for Validity? In a nutshell , what makes the Hall we are in possession of any more Valid than the Plato we are in Possession of,or the John of Patmos we are in possession of, or the Zoroaster we are in possession of, Etc? This IS my point. We HAVE to scrap the Sacred Exoteric Text, Almost, at a certain point of our Development. We Know that there is One Source for All of Us. It is what drives us on our Quest; am I wrong about that? Maybe that is not the Motivation of the rest of you, but it is Most Certainly Mine.
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#68 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 10:22 PM

Jeremiah Fuglseth said:

We Know that there is One Source for All of Us. It is what drives us on our Quest;

That is what some people believe...

Jeremiah Fuglseth said:

am I wrong about that?

...or rather, what some people hope.

Jeremiah Fuglseth said:

Maybe that is not the Motivation of the rest of you, but it is Most Certainly Mine.

So, what if it's not true? I mean, what if there is no One Source? What then?
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#69 Jeremiah Fuglseth

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 10:27 PM

R. Eugene Laughlin said:

That is what some people believe...



...or rather, what some people hope.



So, what if it's not true? I mean, what if there is no One Source? What then?

OK. Let's go with that. My response is Identical I.E.: Wand waving useless at certain point, living life more important, wave wands for fun but nothing else does it mean, etc....In Truth, my response becomes even more valid, in my Opinion. If there is nothing past this point, other than being fractured into some other forms that are nothing like being Human;( Example: Loss of Consciousness) ,then This Experience as a Human Gains in value from it's Individuality. We know the Law of Like brings Like. Why then Bring Suffering? Out of Bitterness? The Experience of the Feeling Bitter Implies that One Knows the Instability of One's Own Philosophical Trinity.
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#70 R. Eugene Laughlin

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 10:59 PM

Jeremiah Fuglseth said:

If there is nothing past this point, other than being fractured into some other forms that are nothing like being Human;( Example: Loss of Consciousness) ,then This Experience as a Human Gains in value from it's Individuality. We know the Law of Like brings Like. Why then Bring Suffering? Out of Bitterness? The Experience of the Feeling Bitter Implies that One Knows the Instability of One's Own Philosophical Trinity.

Are you suffering and bitter?
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#71 Jeremiah Fuglseth

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 11:01 PM

R. Eugene Laughlin said:

Are you suffering and bitter?

Not most of the time! And I pay Close Attention when I am, to the Why of the Matter.
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