Thursday, March 27, 2014

Aleph spelt in full

Because it is better to indulge in gematria studies than rant about Satanists not being Wiccans, I present to you the Hebrew letter Aleph spelled in full...

...and twice spelled, and three-fold spelled, and four-fold spelled, and five-fold spelled...

...and no, I was too lazy to do the six-fold spelling out in full because it involves one hundred and forty-four Hebrew letters spelt out in full.

Aleph simple value: 1
Aleph spelled in full "filled": 111
Aleph double spelled "double-filled": 270
Aleph triple spelled:  963
Aleph four-fold spelled: 2790
Aleph five-fold spelled: 7453

Aleph spelled in full to the fourth degree.
Aleph spelled in full to the fifth degree. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Depicting the fives of Tarot

Welcome to this edition of the Tarot Blog Hop!

Being an artist (well sort of an artist) and a student of the Golden Dawn, as well as a historian (provided that one can be considered a historian with only a Bachelors degree and no position in academia), I tend to look at some aspects of the esoteric sciences differently than other people do.

For instance, due to my Golden Dawn training, and fascination with old Tarot cards, I am very consciously aware that the easy to read pictures on the minor arcana cards is a relatively new thing. Just a century ago, the minor cards were still just emblems and numbers which required that you learn the secret to reading the cards, rather than just pulling them out of a box. Thanks to the Waite/Rider/Smith deck, and all its offshoots, a whole layer of learning about the Tarot cards can be ignored...if you chose to.

(Oh, there is still an art to reading the cards--it is just that the modern cards are so much more readable with just a little training than they were a century ago. Don't get me wrong--learning to read the cards is still hard is just that it used to be even harder.)

 How exactly do you read cards when the only things you have is the suit and number of a card? Part of the Golden Dawn initiated solution was to associate some of the minor arcana (twos to tens) with the 36 decans as well as the sephiroth of the Tree of Life.

Each decan, ten degrees of a zodiac sign, has both the influence of a planet as well as the zodiac sign itself. Layered on top of that is the associated sephirah (based on number) as well as that sephirah's associated planet, and the associated element of the suit of the card, and the corresponding world from the Four World theory. Inside the RR et AC training (the Adept Grades of the Golden Dawn tradition), there are particular coloring rules to remind the Adept reader of the various forces involved in the cards (or at least, there are in the Inner Order training program that I suffered though). There is also a mystic title that one has to memorize.

It is a complicated system, which explains why most people just ignore it and go directly with cloning the pictures from the Waite/Rider/Smith deck and/or just reading from the pictures without the scaffold that GD used to support their reading of the cards.

Now, let's be honest, A.E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, both members of a splinter of the original Golden Dawn Order, did a marvelous job of associating pictorial events to the minor arcana. Still occasionally, as an artist, I wonder what I would have came up with given a completely blank slate, aided only by the Golden Dawn attributes assigned to the cards.

So in the name of a thought experiment, here are the rough (really rough) drafts of the ideas that I have that might be suitable to illustrate the Fives of the minor arcana.

Lord of Strife.
The Five of Wands is associated with the first decan of Leo (the first ten degrees of the zodiac sign of Leo) which is sub-ruled by the planet Saturn. The associated of the Five of Wands, as well as all of the other Fives, is Geburah--the sephirah of severity and martial energies--and its associated planet Mars. The Mystic Title of the Five of Wands is the Lord of Strife.

For this card, I decided that a group of protesters, from a couple of different special interests groups, clashing with one another, was the modern version of Strife. An example of this type of energy can be encountered on the internet wherever people start arguing over politics and how the other political party has stepped over the borders of what is proper behavior. Politics is all about leaders and strong personalities (Leo), and the efforts of imposing limits on the damage that they can cause (Saturn) tends to bring out people's passions (Mars) as the arguments flare out of control (Geburah).

Lord of Loss of Pleasure. 
The Five of Cups has the decan of Scorpio sub-ruled by Mars assigned to it. The fact that Mars is also associated with Geburah means that this card has a double helping of Mars. The Mystic Title given by Golden Dawn to the Five of Cups is the Lord of the Loss of Pleasure.

For this card, I am kicking around just updating the Waite/Rider/Smith card by moving the setting to a dingy bar. After all, I have seen many people go on drinking binges after bad break-ups. I am thinking of possibly having a busy street or neon sign visible in the window behind the person to symbolize the overlooked opportunities are passing by unnoticed. I feel that a dingy bar sums up nicely the heavy Mars energy floating around a Scorpio environment.

Lord of Defeat.
The Five of Swords is associated with the first decan of Aquarius, the first ten degrees of the sign which are sub-ruled by the planet Venus. Here the energies of Mars meet Venus in a sign that is ruled by Saturn (under the old rules of astrology before the discovery of the modern outer planets). This combination of forces tends to have Mars completely overwhelm the energies of Venus, and imposes new limits on the situation--unfortunately, the battle between the two tends to exhaust both sides; and while their is a victor, it is only a temporary honor. The Mystic Title of this card is the Lord of Defeat.

For this card, I decided to go with the closest thing to war that many people in the modern world know--sports. Out of all the sports, I decided pro wrestling was the closest to the actual energies of this card. Wrestlers have adoring fans (Venus), limits to how long they will be champions before they are overthrown (Saturn), and there is a constant flow of Mars energy present. Of course, this is also true of other sports. So why wrestling? It is an individual and not a team that wins.

Lord of Material Trouble. 
The Five of Pentacles (Coins if you prefer) is associated with the first decan of Taurus, the ten degrees of the sign of Taurus sub-ruled by Mercury. Like the other Fives, the martial energies of the sephirah Geburah and its associated planet impact the decan's energies in a negative fashion. The Mystic Title of this card is the Lord of Material Trouble.

In the case of this card, while I like the Waite/Rider/Smith version (two crippled beggars outside a church), I am not sure that the imagery completely fits into modern times. Today, news (Mercury) of a stock market downturn (Mars) is more likely to be a source of worry than the thought that you might become a cripple (though I will note that medical costs can still be costly).

So those are my best ideas (currently) about how I would use the Golden Dawn associations to the Fives to create a series of new pictures for them. If nothing else, the exercise helped me understand the Fives a little better. If you have any ideas about how you would update the cards, I would love to hear about them in the comment section.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Are you going to MagickAll?

MagickAll 2014 spring gathering.
As a reminder to my friends and readers, if you are going to MagickAll (April 5 to 13, 2014) hosted by David Griffin's HOGD/AO, I would love to hear an actual independent report from the gathering and not just the normal advertising copy that I end up reading on Griffin's blog (sorry, the testimonials he posts always read like advertising copy to me).

(And no, my doctor is no closer to figuring out the proper medicine to overcome my "moving vehicle" triggered migraines...which is a little disappointing considering that this gathering looks like it might actually be interesting, given the people who will be lecturing. Otherwise, I would be borrowing money and asking for someone to swing by on their way there to give me a ride. Given the fact that my last car ride migraine took me out for nine whole days, well, this year I once again get to miss all the fun stuff. Honestly, I can't even get halway across town before I am in screaming agony.)

And if you have not heard about it, and don't mind traveling to the outskirts of Las Vegas Nevada, you can find the complete information about MagickAll 2014 at Griffin's blog (here at this link).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

How Matherites rewrite Golden Dawn history

Good luck with your attempt to turn Mathers into a Saint. 
The best way to start this post is to perhaps to state upfront that I actually admire the work that Samuel Liddell Mathers did, especially the work he did alongside with William Wynn Westcott. I view the duo of Mathers and Westcott much like I view the duo of Dee and Kelley, two men who helped create a system bigger and more grand than they were. And much like Dee and Kelley, I feel that they were better operating as a duo than separate individuals. Also like Dee and Kelley, I do not think that Mathers and Westcott had the slightest clue of how vast and complicated the system that they helped birth really was. And just like Dee and Kelley, I do not believe that Mathers' word and instruction about the system he helped create is the last and final word.

Then again, I do not believe that a final word is possible about the Golden Dawn system of initiations and instructions--at least, as long as the system remains a living system. I do not think that Westcott, Waite, Regardie, Crowley, the Ciceros, or anyone else understood/understands the system so completely that their word has to be taken as absolute gospel and the only correct way to work the system.

Yet over the years, I have encountered dozens of people who have held up Mathers as the final word of how the system is supposed to be worked, right down to the level of accepted behavior that a leader has to meet. These people brush the more ugly aspects of Mathers' behavior and the troubling aspects of Golden Dawn history that make the man look all too human under a rug. Often it is because they consider themselves the spiritual successor to Mathers' Golden Dawn, right down to even creating a fake charter.

Seriously, I have encountered someone who created a fake charter from the man, not just a simple lineage and historical claim to be the man's successor. It was a rather sad and pitiful attempt to look like more important than they really were. I was not impressed, having a decent knowledge of art techniques that are designed to mimic the works of the masters. Being a happy little cynic probably also helped.

So what are some of the changes that the Matherites like to make to Golden Dawn history? And what is actually closer to the truth?

Mathers was popular and welcome in many different Orders. Actually, no, he was not. In fact, Mathers was barred from joining several groups, due to the intense dislike that some had of his character. In terms of memberships in multiple Orders, Westcott was far more active than Mathers.

Mathers was learned in many languages. Only partially true. Again, Westcott was the better of Mathers.

Mathers was a military man. Only if being a private makes you a military man. Or if translating a book from French does.

Mathers was hard working and reliable. Seriously? At least, one person who hired him to do translation would have argued differently, as well as all the people he borrowed money from and never repaid.

Mathers was really of Scottish noblity. Based solely on Mathers' claims, of course...of which there is no actual historical evidence to back the claim that he was "Comte MacGregor do Glenstrae."

Mathers was a ritual writing genius responsible for what Golden Dawn is. No, no, no. The Cipher Manuscript was written by someone else, probably Kenneth MacKenzie. The Outer Order rituals were mainly fleshed out by Westcott, a fact that Mathers never denied. The Portal ritual, originally part of the 5=6 ritual is a mess magically from an initiation analysis point of view. And large parts of the 5=6 ritual were actually lifted from the original RC manifestos (a point that can be proved by highlighting everything found in the Adept Minor ritual that also is found in the original RC manifestos).

(There is also a rumor that the whole Vault of the Adepts, color scheme and all, was lifted from another group--but in all fairness, I have not seen proof of this claim.)

Mathers was completely ignorant of the Westcott creation of the Sprengel letters during the opening days of Golden Dawn. Seriously, if Mathers was ignorant that Westcott was creating a set of letters and stories to boost the reputation of the Order, then he must have also believed that the Order was hundreds of years old. Often Mathers and Westcott was taking action before they recieved the "official approval" though the Sprengel letters--was Mathers really so dense that he did not notice this?!

Mathers moved to Paris to be in contact with the Secret Chiefs. Actually, he moved to Paris to accompany his wife, Moina, who supposed to go to art school there. Then, after moving to Paris, he claimed to have made contact with the Secret Chiefs and to recieve the Second Order material.

There was a logical reason for him to believe that Madame Horos was really a 5=6 member of the Golden Dawn. If there is one, no source has ever revealed it. And the excuse that he had been cut off from contact with the Secret Chiefs does not cut it either. Quite simply, why didn't he test the woman and her companions on the very basics of the Golden Dawn security procedures and rituals? Surely, the Horos did not fake the passwords, Grade signs, and knowledge of the rituals of the Grades they claimed to have...because if they did, they would had no need to steal documents and rituals from Mathers.

Mathers meet with physical Secret Chiefs. Actually, while Mathers claimed that he believed that he believed that the Secret Chiefs were living on Earth, he said that he only saw them in astral form--"the rendezvous was made astrally by them..." In other words, he never shook hands with a Secret Chief...which would be the ultimate proof that they were flesh and blood beings, so we only have his stated belief that they were physical beings.

The promotion of Crowley and/or actions of the SRIA were the real reasons for the schism against Mathers. No, the problems within the Order, the harbringer of the schism, started to show up as early as 1892, several years before the entry of Crowley into Outer Order, not alone into the Inner Order. And the actual schism in 1900, preceeded Mathers' removal from the SRIA by two years (Mathers was removed from the ranks of the SRIA for inactivity).

(For the record, given Mathers disregard for the wishes of the London Adepti, including his refusal to help make repairs to the Vault of the Adepts, I would have voted against him. His behavior alone, regardless of whether or not he was in contact with Third Order, was enough to cause a significant amount of the membership to rebel against him. The real reason for the schism is simply that people don't always get along with one another, especially if some of the people involved are arrogant ass-holes who believe that people are plotting against them.)

Mathers was cut from contact from the Secret Chiefs for the third and final time in 1906 when the Secret Chiefs realized the mess that he made of their teachings when Aliester Crowley published the Golden Dawn material. There are a few problems with this idea. The system, if guided by the Secret Chiefs, was always "hands-off"--one can hardly blame the worker if the supervisor is never on the job site. The Cipher Manuscript was fleshed out without any input by the Secret Chiefs--hence the entire Outer Order could be wrong. Secondly, it took Crowley publishing for the Secret Chiefs to realize that Mathers was cocking the system up? What they never asked Mathers any questions about how he understood the material?! Thirdly, Mathers AO was not even using the same set of Z-documents and rituals as the ones that Crowley published--or at least, not doing the rituals as if the Z-documents had any actual bearing on the effectiveness of the system.

And Mathers was in contact with a group of physical Secret Chiefs at the time of the Mathers/Crowley court case. And if the Secret Chiefs were physical beings, why did they not at least send a letter to Mathers to show the judge? Crowley got sent several charters and letters to undermine Mathers' claims to be the sole RC representative, why did Mathers not get any from the people most concerned with his claims. It is one thing for them not to show up in court, but why no letters?!

(In fact, why no letters at all from the Secret Chiefs beyond the Sprengel letters? A single physical letter would have proven that they were physical beings living on Earth...yet not a single letter exists to prove that they knew where Mathers lived. And for that matter, why did no one in the Order outside of Mathers and his wife ever met them? Surely, the Secret Chiefs knew where the lodges were located at, and could have proven that they had more right to be there than anyone else did.)

Mathers fully understood the system, and should be considered the final voice in how Golden Dawn and its Inner Order should work, including the acceptable behavior of an occult leader. No, Mathers did not fully understand the system. For one thing, he had not experienced the rituals from the viewpoint of the initiate--there are experiences that only initiates have (things that initiates use to see if someone has done more than just read the GD rituals in a book). Two, he ignored stuff from the very documents and lessons that he wrote (following the Z-documents make it impossible to do the short-cuts to the rituals that he allowed, not alone actually allow people to claim Grades simply by swearing the oath of the Grade and paying an advancement fee--aka rituals done without the person being present, something that shows up in the log books of his own lodge). As for his behavior being acceptable as a leader, tell me again how it is ok to piss off the membership to the point that they rebel against you.

Mathers was selective about who he let into the Order. If Crowley is not proof enourgh that Mathers quality control was lax, how about the Horos? Is there any evidence at all that Mathers ever rejected a single applicant who had the money to pay the dues and fees?

There is at least one lineage today that traces back to Mathers and is authorized. No, none at all. No one was authorized by Mathers to take over the Order after his death. Not even Moina Mathers had authority to run the Order after he died. And by 1940s, every lodge of Mathers' AO had closed its doors.

Of course, let's be honest, none of the facts will ever prevent people from trying to turn Mathers into a Saint or prevent them from claiming that they are his one and only true spiritual successor. And in fact, one can probably put good money on the fact that this little blog post will be called complete and utter lies by at least one Matherite...but then again, me and Matherites never get along with one another, so what else is new?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pi day

A pi pie.
Because it is better to talk about mathematics and food, and to ignore the mad rumblings of a sad conspiracy theorist looking for an enemy to blame everything on, I present you with a pie to celebrate the holy day of pi.

Blessed be the pi. Blessed be the pie.

And now I am hungry.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Chalices (underglazed)

Chalice underglazed. 
 Morgan here. Awhile back someone asked me if my wife made goblets. Of course, being the non-artist type, I had no idea what the difference was between a chalice and a goblet. Furthermore, at the time I could locate any pictures of the chalices that my wife makes. (I had forgotten to take pictures of the last batch that she did that ended up at Spiritways.)

Another underglazed chalice. 
 Today, when going out to the studio to take a picture of a coffee mug, I spotted these two chalices that have been underglazed that I believe are going into the next kiln firing, and thought that I would take a couple of quick shots just so people knew what type of chalice my wife was capable of making.

Unfortunately, I can't remember who asked me if my wife makes chalices. Hopefully, they see this post.

Studio Kitty does not remember who it was either.