Page 1 of 1

Symbolism in the Presentation of Spirits

Posted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 9:43 am
by Nefastos
So many (great) discussions have lately been about more everyday subjects, that it might be good to add some magical ponderings on the side for the sake of equilibrium.

A pair of examples from classic texts to give the idea & open discussion:

The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy by (Pseudo-)Agrippa wrote:"The Shapes Familiar to the Spirits of Saturn

They appear for the most part with a tall, lean, and slender body, with an angry countenance, having four faces; one in the hinder part of the head, one one the former part of the head, and on each side nosed or beaked: there likewise appeareth a face on each knee, or a black colour: their motion is the moving of the winde, with a kinde of earthquake: their sign is white earth, whiter than any snow.

The particular forms are,
– A King having a beard, riding on a Dragon.
– An Old man with a beard.
– An Old woman leaning on a staffe.
– A Hog.
– A Dragon.
– An Owl.
– A black Garment.
– A Hooke or Sickle.
– A Juniper-tree."

Lemegeton wrote:"The 63 spirit is called Andras, he is a great Marquiz appearing in ye forme of an angell wth a head like Black night Raven, riding upon a strong black woolf, wth a sharpe bright sword flourishing in his hand, his office is to sow discords, if ye Exorcist hath not care he will kill him and his fellows, he governeth 30 Legions of spirits his is Thus to be worne as a Lamin before on your Breast." [An abstract seal follows]


How symbolic or how definite & factual do you see depictions of spirits and gods?

Re: Symbolism in the Presentation of Spirits

Posted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 12:26 pm
by obnoxion
I see them as symbolic and as factual. So perhaps the word I would use here is transsubstantial. I just read it yesterday, when it was used to describe the art of the French Rosicrucian Symbolist Artists, as they aimed to combine the mundane and the numinous.

Personally, for example, black discarded garments have always been a sort of theophany for me. When you move outdoors almost daily, you tend to see gloves, scarfs, shoes and even shirts discarded by the side of the road. And sometimes people lift them up on the branches ofsome tree, perhaps so that the owners who lost them would find them.

Since childhood, I,ve reacted strongly to clothes discarded outdoors, especially when hung up a tree. I,ve considered it a poetic, mystical sight. Later I,ve read from Shakta Tantras that seeing a red or black garment could afford a moment of short, private sadhana. I,ve also read from Mircea Eliade of a religious custom to dress up trees with garments. So this has strengthened my idea of this poetic, pantheistic transubstantion.

From what I know about goetia, I suppose that someone who would take it up in a serious and private manner, would propably encounter a storm of synchronities that would be trying to one's sense of the separatedness of the concrete and the symbolic.

Re: Symbolism in the Presentation of Spirits

Posted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 12:34 pm
by Smaragd
As the caption 'The Shapes Familiar to the Spirits of Saturn' suggests, I believe the forms — certain animals, plants, leather jackets and other carriers of aesthetics, behaviour and physical bodies — communicate forth ideas, functions and geometric shapes that in the holistic human interface can be seen as part of some whole (a spirit). Saturn is a great example for isn't it the spirit which gives material existence to all the ideas? As it works as part of the whole (from one aspect all the others can be found) in giving the physical form, through it comes all the other angles to the physical plane. If we are to think of spirits as certain geometrical angles or a group of angles, I interpret from the quote Saturn to have quite a narrow angle as its familiar shapes are tall, lean and slender bodies. Meanwhile Saturn in its duty of making the material aspect of the universe also puts forth the wider angles of other spirits on that plane. In this way I see depictions of spirits and gods almost geometrically definite.

Yet the exact angle(s) or spectrum remains indeterminate, atleast in these examples, and thus it is symbolic in the same lively manner the world goes and morphs by without stopping on a definition. By the holistic human interface, I referred to, we make interpretations and are more or less able to see the unifying core of a spirit in it's seemingly reduced layers of existence – the forms, ideas, functions etc. Seeing a spirit behind these poetic presentations is seeing the manifested world as an image of god, and in this the definite and symbolic blurs in to one, after which question of factuality seems almost ridiculous. (It is easy to say these interpretations are just subjective fantasies, but to me it usually seems like giving up before seeing all the evidence or metaphysics behind the thought.)
Sometimes it is obvious the symbols of the natural world does not meet, for example, the actual animals nature. There the writer might have had some striking intuition from a miniscule detail or the painter might have build on a tradition that has become a bit "rigid", or more positively expressed stone-like in its symbolism. The question of validity of symbolism beautiful but distanced from the depicted imagery has been bugging my left hand a bit. But there's also some strange beauty in these, for example, the pelican feeding its progeny with its own blood – a depiction uniting Christian symbolism and (I would assume) European folk lore. The basic sacrificial idea comes across including many subtle meanings of cultural exchange etc. that might be interpreted to also be in the area of Christ/Mercury, the latter which is the god of commerce and communication. There's so many layers the manifested material world has to give it's face to, that it is no wonder it often might seem so chaotic.

Re: Symbolism in the Presentation of Spirits

Posted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:20 pm
by Nefastos
obnoxion wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 12:26 pm
I see them as symbolic and as factual. So perhaps the word I would use here is transsubstantial.


The word evokes ideas which also depict well my conviction that all substance is spirit: that all spirit(s) can be condensed to quasi-intellectual patterns which in turn is the root of all geometry, and every separate geometric piece. Thus there is no actual difference between spirit and matter in my world view, where all is One, in the state of constant (law-bound and exact) flux. In a same way how Blavatsky said that every atom is a god, also every field (pattern) in the world is always an intellect, a soul; a being.

obnoxion wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 12:26 pm
From what I know about goetia, I suppose that someone who would take it up in a serious and private manner, would propably encounter a storm of synchronities that would be trying to one's sense of the separatedness of the concrete and the symbolic.


This is my experience also.

Couldn't we also say that those "symbolic" spirit shapes might be at the same time their actual outer shapes when the frame of things is constant?

For example: A grimoire may give a certain shape to all spirits of a certain type. This may have been true in a frame where the text was composed. A magician living three centuries ago in a village or a city which held only that village or city's mindscape and very little else, would receive the summonings in common shapes, in a similar way that a person's dream world tends to use the same symbol over & over again. The flux is there, but it works in much more hermetic (I mean intimately closed) astral world than any of us could live in nowadays. Thus, when the cultures, people and ideas blend, so do the spirit energies, but because of the natural proteic nature of their being & perhaps its dependance on or interconnection with the observer's characteristics, the variance is even greater.

Thus a karcist of the old times, and those belonging to his tradition (its mindset & the very same energies) might always receive similar spirit shapes, or at least often enough that they are able to make the statements we find in the grimoires.

Smaragd wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 12:34 pm
Saturn is a great example for isn't it the spirit which gives material existence to all the ideas? (...) There's so many layers the manifested material world has to give it's face to, that it is no wonder it often might seem so chaotic.


Personally I think that all spirits together finally make up the super-archetype of Saturn or Satan (or, in His feminine form, the Great Goddess, Magna Mater). This omnipresence of Satan, and thus, paradox & challenge, is the mystery both absolutely terrifying & absolutely fascinating. This also makes the "spiritus" of endless breathing, that you and other brethren are just discussing in The Secret Doctrine reading group.

Re: Symbolism in the Presentation of Spirits

Posted: Sat Jun 29, 2019 9:35 am
by Polyhymnia
Nefastos wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 9:43 am

How symbolic or how definite & factual do you see depictions of spirits and gods?
Due to my Golden Dawn background I tend to visualize quite factual depictions. Most of the exercises I partook in detailed quite heavily very specific attributes to whomever the meditation or prayer was addressed to. In one specific exercise we call upon the Archangels, and the passages describe the colour of their robes, hair, and ritual instruments. My brain is hard wired to very specific images, but through my current (very early) stages of growth here within the brotherhood, I'm learning that I can let go of this rigidity and allow images to manifest in a more symbolic way.

Re: Symbolism in the Presentation of Spirits

Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 1:00 pm
by Nefastos
Polyhymnia wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 9:35 am
My brain is hard wired to very specific images


This can be a great asset also, doesn't it? Such an inner paraphernalia, calibrating one's inner eye to certain tendencies, certainly helps to put some form on energies both in works of receiving & making things to happen.

Personally I've always fought against the idea that spirits or gods are de facto anthropomorphic or that form in astral worlds is constant, but that is not to say that making up forms and seeing common forms would be bad in itself. To say that everything can be anything is as anti-occult (profane way of thinking), I think, to say that something that is seen in some way is its true & only shape. Occultism is the doctrine of subtle nuances in unity, and can't be done or undone with a mallet.

Some time ago I read the biography of Swedenborg, and naturally it made me to think the old question: How literally do these old clairvoyants take their visions, and to what degree they understand that their visions are symbolic? For it seems that it demands a certain mindset to to become a formal clairvoyant who really believes in the very formal worlds he sees. For a magician, those kinds of spirit communications are pure wonder, since their forms are heuristic: but a clairvoyant "believer" also thinks that what he sees is a solid fact, and couldn't have been seen in any other way. For me, such a view is a real mind bender.

Re: Symbolism in the Presentation of Spirits

Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 11:13 pm
by obnoxion
Nefastos wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 1:00 pm
[Occultism is the doctrine of subtle nuances in unity, and can't be done or undone with a mallet.
I think this is a very precise and accurate way to put it.

Re: Symbolism in the Presentation of Spirits

Posted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 11:17 am
by Cerastes
When it comes to spirits, I don’t think it’s just our human interface connecting signals with (collective)-subconciously produced images. PersonalIy I almost never sensed a spirit in the way it was discribed in a grimore, no matter if it was a new or an old one. If I try to concentrate on say, a horned man with goat feet, nothing happens at all. I see those so called outer forms more like the allegories in the bible and most of the matching images in sensing spirits may be caused by cultural similarities or auto-suggestive factors and as everthing is in motion, it cannot be constant at all.
Nefastos wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 1:00 pm
Some time ago I read the biography of Swedenborg, and naturally it made me to think the old question: How literally do these old clairvoyants take their visions, and to what degree they understand that their visions are symbolic? For it seems that it demands a certain mindset to to become a formal clairvoyant who really believes in the very formal worlds he sees. For a magician, those kinds of spirit communications are pure wonder, since their forms are heuristic: but a clairvoyant "believer" also thinks that what he sees is a solid fact, and couldn't have been seen in any other way. For me, such a view is a real mind bender.
It is challenging to find the balance beween complete arbitrariness and and solide facts.
I too believe that the truth lies somewhere in between. Maybe even the grade of subjectiveness difers from person to person. It is possible that some people are more able to connect with the common mindset and the common astral world and others have a thicker „personality filter“ which produces a higher grade of subjectivity and is harder to transfer or to adapt. As long as the person is concious of this, I don’t see a problem. But very too often, the borderlines between astral and solid seem to blur.
Polyhymnia wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 9:35 am
In one specific exercise we call upon the Archangels, and the passages describe the colour of their robes, hair, and ritual instruments. My brain is hard wired to very specific images, but through my current (very early) stages of growth here within the brotherhood, I'm learning that I can let go of this rigidity and allow images to manifest in a more symbolic way.
This is actually very impressive because it requires a high grade of imagination to produce such a detailed and fixed image. It could be, that a fixed image a makes it easier to make contact with the said spirit. It's probably like dialing the same phone numer over and over again.