[NB] Of Planets, Trees, and Metals

I have been working my way through a translation of Diwan Malkuta Laita (Scroll of Exalted Kingship) that Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley published. The scroll is a liturgical guide to the consecration of new priests among the Mandaeans and is full of tightly-packed nuggets of their particular Gnostic cosmo-ontology. Considering it as a well-preserved piece of a dialogue with other Gnostic practices from antiquity has been very rewarding.

(I’m not saying it is just a well-preserved bit of dialogue, for it is part of a living Mandaean practice, too. I am, however, outside of that living practice, so for me it is most readily accessible as evidence rather than as testimony.)

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[NB] Mandaean Eschatology

It is going to be quiet here for a little while yet. The narrative cosmogram that I have been working on is proceeding exactly according to its own pace, which is an interesting experience, but not one that can be easily shared before it is further along.

Here, though, is a little excerpt from a scholar’s meeting with a Mandaean sheikh in the 1970s:

“Sheikh Abdullah showed us his ring and explained that the four animals depicted on the seal—the lion, the wasp, the scorpion, and the encircling snake—were ‘the elements of life’….Cosmological and mythical topis came up. What will happen to us at the end of the world?…the Mandaeans will go to the Lightworld, the heavenly world. Paradise lies beyond the gate at the North Pole, ours is just one of 365 universes, and the earth is flat and stands still. And it will soon end. Such were the sheikh’s words.”—The Mandaeans: Ancient Texts and Modern People, Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley (ix)

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Distinguishing Alef

A few weeks ago, I sat down on the floor to do my weekly geomantic reading. As soon as I had drawn it, I could see it was the inverse of a sign that has shown up a couple of times fairly recently. As I sat with it, absorbing the inverse image, I felt this great shift inside my body and a song started to rise up. As I hummed and began to sing it quietly, I got very hot, then very queasy.

I could feel the song catching on the inside of me, tugging, and I had a sense of where it was headed. There was brief phase of futile negotiation (maybe this can just be the subtle sort of cleanse?), followed by a some internal resistance as I huddled close to the toilet, and then I retched.

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Cosmology, Neither Map nor Territory

I’ve been on a cosmological kick while diving a little more deeply into the Gnostic material. As I read through the divergent perspectives on salvation and the best means of attaining it (which is what the cosmologies are for, after all), I am articulating it with my own magical work. There are some potential pitfalls in this sort of work and as I navigate them I’m reminded of the old saw about the map not being the territory, except that there really isn’t a map or territory in these cosmologies.

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[NB] Evidentiary Ghosts II: Trash Heap and Salvation

“All things are lawful to me, not all things are expedient. All things are lawful to me, all things edify not.”—I Corinthians 10:23

Philip K. Dick noted that one of the first places that the spirit of salvation tends to manifest is in the trash heap. Some trashy bit of fiction, a cheap bit of jewelry, a character in a TV show, becomes illumined all out of proportion to their material presence and speaks to us. It’s the sort of thing that superficially seems to justify all sorts of pop culture magic experimentation, but if placed in the context of the ghost-ridden fallen world, speaks against such efforts.

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[NB] Evidentiary Ghosts

So, now for something entirely different.

Stacey and I have been talking about ghosts a bit lately, particularly the parasitic sort, and I realize that there is probably something to be said about ghosts that I haven’t said before. The family of pretenders that often first appear to us as we set out on a magical path (which we hopefully learn to distinguish from the higher powers with which our destiny entwines) do provide a useful service; they educate us about ourselves and our spiritual make-up.

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Sefer Yetzirah in History, Practice, and Experience

[Another page fed back into the blog. Like the previous page to post, this one also has relevance to the upcoming series.]

I haven’t spent much time talking about what I imagine the lifeworld of these ritual practices to have been, what sort of events and intentions animated their organization as well as their dispersal and divergence. I want to correct that a little, starting with the Sefer Yetzirah (SY). This is speculative, driven by imagination and informed by historical and spiritual study. The image of the past derived from it serves a spiritual purpose, though, as something with which I can dialogue as I develop a framework of meaning that supports my work.

I want to start with some broad historical context and then proceed to the speculation.

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