I have talked a little here and there about the way in which each of Jung’s core functions (Intuition, Thinking, Feeling, and Sensation) can be mapped onto traditional elemental correspondences, but lately I have been thinking that the better comparison may be the elemental lines within the tree of life diagram. Admittedly, I have been thinking about them an awful lot, but there is a logic there that carries between the two systems and encourages me to think that Jung’s psychological types might flourish better in an occult or magical account of the psyche than in an academic psychology.
I have been thinking about C. G. Jung’s typological work again, in part because I have been thinking about the opening of a personal magical practice, about what constitutes the healthy openign for a person. Reflection on such beginnings provide insight into the present situation they made possible, and they also provide possible insight for those who are at the beginning, so it seems like good blogging material.
I have had this post half-formed for a while, since reading some of Edward Butler’s work, and this post over at Hermetic Lessons served as a catalyst to extract it. The basic point is straightforward enough. If we are made of time, then it is important to think about how time can be made, how it can be constituted. Those forms of time define the substance of our experience and those forms of experience make possible forms of practice. One of the problems with this discussion is that we often have a fairly poor vocabulary for talking about this sort of thing.
There is a big question that is difficult to get at that nonetheless needs to be addressed if I am going to talk about gnosticism. Namely: what is gnosis? I have an answer, but I also have an allusive sensibility, so please pardon me as I make some wide circuits through this question.
The science of letters is a fairly obscure element to many contemporary folks who are interested in gnosticism, but it forms an essential aspect of it. Gnosticism is born alongside the alphabet, most specifically with the abjads, and its relationship to knowledge and understanding is shaped by it. The alphabet also anchors gnosticism in a cultural time and space, distinguishing it from a family of spiritual and linguistic practices that take other forms of writing as their point of departure.
I said I wanted to take this from the top, so let’s start with the big terms. Gnosticism is one of those words with a lot of historical baggage. Despite or because of that baggage, it is one of those terms that is difficult to use to identify a practice. It can mean anything from a very specific set of early Christian movements to contemporary magical practices with Satanic overtones. While there is a structural unity to much of the term’s diverse applications, that structural unity only gets us so far. Part of the problem with structures is that they are prone to inversions and re-constellations of meaning over time and space and across cultural milieus.
I have discovered there is a rhythm that works fairly well for me as I work my way deeper into the Sefer Yetzirah. I take a set of lines and begin working through them as a structure, contemplating them as they are represented on the diagram with which I focus my work alongside their witnesses. After a lot of that, I find myself drawn toward the letters proper, which is usually when things get more intense. After I have spent some time with the letters, the next structural unit starts to come to the fore, although with each step the previous letters remain present and active.