Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Tool-using Apes or Mathematical Magicians?

The Doctrines of Mathematicks are so necessary to, and have such an affinity with Magick, that they that do profess it without them, are quite out of the way, and labour in vain, and shall in no wise obtain their desired effect. For whatsoever things are, and are done in these inferior naturall vertues, are all done, and governed by number, weight, measure, harmony, motion, and light.

  The 2nd Book of Occult Philosophy, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa

In this chapter of his second book on Occult Philosophy Agrippa's commitment to Science and Mathematics along with his avowal of their efficacy in magic is clear.  Two subjects, historically intertwined and demonstrably lacking in the conversations of the modern occultist are Science and Qabalah.  If they do come up its more than likely part of an anti-intellectual, anti-Scientific, perhaps even a veiled anti-Semitic position.  In the WMT of today charges are regularly levelled at Science and the Qabalah is ridiculed.  To our alchemical forebears that made such sacrifices, endured persecution, trials and execution to bring Hermetic science to the world, that bore the accusations of signing demonic pacts for simply performing mathematical calculations, the lack of this kind of knowledge in the wizard of today would have been galling.

Obviously magic can be performed without the aid of Mathematics and Science but to study this particular tradition of the Western Mysteries and to be void of the Classics, Science and Mathematics seems absurd.  As has been pointed out before there is no longer an excuse as many of the books that one used to have to literally quest for are now freely available on the internet. Similarly with the abundance of resources and access to Kabbalah, access that would have made an occultist like Agrippa drool, it is amazing how deficient the standard knowledge of the so-called adept is, let alone their students.

Hence a Magician, expert in naturall Philosophy, and Mathematicks, and knowing the middle sciences consisting of both these, Arithmatick, Musick, Geometry, Opticks, Astronomie, and such sciences that are of weights, measures, proportions, articles, and joynts, knowing also Mechanicall Arts resulting from these, may without any wonder, if he excell other men in Art, and wit, do many wonderfull things, which the mosst prudent, and wise men may much admire.

 The 2nd Book of Occult Philosophy, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa

In the last post, one of the subjects that arose was the use/necessity of tools in the performance of magic.  I believe that the process of going through sourcing specific materials and crafting tools to a high quality finish can't hurt the will.  As a trial for the magician, as a process which hones the devotion and focus it may be second to none... from a material perspective. Conversely when a magician improvises lazily or heavily it has to wound the operation and when tools become a kind of occult bling, we are definitely off the path.

The reasons that mathematics remains so essential to the magician, as to why it constitutes their most important set of tools, and why Iamblichus considered it to be the noetic aspect of Theurgy is that it increases the specificity of magical results by perfecting timing and other Qabalistic calculations, hones the mind to think logically or reasonably when dealing with the weird world of magic and prepares the soul to meet and ''manipulate'' the mathematical nature of ultimate reality. Sourcing that lionskin for the parchment is challenging, integral calculus perhaps even more so.

For it is a generall opinion of the Pythagoreans, that as Mathematicall things are more formall then Naturall, so also they are more efficacious: as they have less dependence in their being, so also in their operation. But amongst all Mathematicall things, numbers, as they have more of form in them, so also are more efficacious, to which not only Heathen Philosophers, but also Hebrew, and Christian Divines do attribute vertue, and efficacy, as well to effect what is good, as what is bad.

 The 2nd Book of Occult Philosophy, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa

Obviously this does not apply to every reader but perhaps it would be a good time to put down your physical magickal tools and grimoires and refresh your Science and Mathematics this Summer Reengage with the subjects.  If you are completely unfamiliar with Science pick a textbook from one of the three main subjects - physics, chemistry or biology  - and make sure to study as you would at college. If you are already comfortable with basic science then push it out there a little bit and go deeper into one of the subjects you like - study cellular receptors, or virology, or enzymology; particle physics, astrophysics, nuclear medicine. Again stick to textbooks rather popular science and see it as work rather than pleasure.  Or watch the formal lectures available on you tube. Companion studies in a scientific subject greatly enhance the experience of reading the Western Mysteries.