Monday, November 28, 2011

Phrensie: Agrippa's (Occasionally Ecstatic) Vehicle for Oracular Knowledge

I recently wrote about my theory about using the Muses, and their placement in Agrippa against the Platonic celestial bodies, and about trying to make fluid condensers based on those planetary considerations.

It seems that the primary reason that Agrippa includes the Muses in his Phrensie sections, however, is for the transmission of oracular knowledge. There are about five total sections in his Third Book that concern this process:

All of these are terribly interesting, but for the purpose of this blog entry I'm going to be focusing on the general state, ad the first two forms of Phrensie/Ecstasis (the Muses and Dionysus).

On the general nature of Phrensie, he tells us that:
“Soothsaying is that which the priests or others were stricken withall, and discerned the causes of things, and foresaw future things, viz. when Oracles and Spirits descend from the Gods or from Demons upon them, and are delivered by them; which descendings the Platonists call the falling down of superior souls on our souls; and Mercurius calls them the senses of the Demons, and the spirits of Demons. Of which sort of Demons the Ancients called Eurideae, and Pythonae, who, as the Ancients believed, were wont to enter into the bodies of men, and make use of the voyces, and tongues, for the prediction of things to come; of which Plutarch also made mention in his dialogue of the causes of defect of Oracles. ... Now that the foretellings of things to come are properly the fallings down of the Gods. Isaiah affirms, saying, And tell unto us those things that are coming, and we will tell them, because ye are Gods; But these kinds of fallings down, or senses, come not into our souls when they are more attently busied ahout any thing else; but they pass into them, when they are vacant. Now there are three kinds of this vacancy, viz. phrensie, extasie [phrensy, ecstasy], and dreams, of each of which in their order.”

He goes on, in the next section on the Muses to tell us that:
“Phrensie [phrensy] is an illustration of the soul coming from the Gods, or Demons. Whence this verse of Ovid,
God is in us, Commerces of the throne
of God, that spirit from above came down.
Plato defines this by alienation, and binding; for he abstracts from those by which the corporeal senses are stirred up, and being estranged from an animal man, adheres to a diety [deity] from whom it receives those things which it cannot search into by its own power; for when the minde is free, and at liberty, the reines of the body being loosed, and going forth as out of a close prison, transcends the bonds of the members, and nothing hindring of it, being stirred up by its own instigations, and instigated by a divine spirit, comprehends all things, and foretells future things.”

He then proceeds to explain the relation of the Muses to the first form of Phrensie. He states that the Muses are “the souls of the celestial spheres, according to which there are found several degrees, by which there is an attraction of superior things to inferior,” at least as he is concerned. While in my previous article, I merely listed the page of JSK's rendering of the Muses to the Platonic spheres (p.186), I'm now going to list them and add in Agrippa's comments about what the Muses teach through each of the spheres, combined with the name of Bachhus that JSK supplies:
  • Primum Mobile – Calliope – Cribonius
“The ninth degree answers to the primum mobile, viz. the ninth sphear [sphere], as the very universe: this possesseth things more formal, as Numbers, Figures, Characters, and observes the occult influences of the intelligences of the heaven, and other mysteries, which because they bear the effigies of celestial dieties [deities], and invocated spirits, easily allures them, and compelleth them being forced by a certain necessity of conformity to come to one, and detains them, that they shall not easily go back, of which we read in the Oracles in Porphyrie [Porphyry].
Cease now at length, spare words, to life give rest,
Dissolve, and leave old shapes (I thee request),
Dishape the members, and the winding sheet
Unloose -----
And in another place in the same book.
Ye Garlands loose the feet, with water clean
Let them be sprinkled, and the Laurel green
Be taken off from th' hands, and every line
And Character be blotted out -----”
  • Fixed Stars – Urania – Picionius
“The eighth degree resembles the starry heaven; this observes the situation, motion, raies [rays], and light of the celestial bodies: it possesseth also images, rings, and such like, which are made after the rule of celestials, as we have abeve spoken.”
“The seventh degree resembles Saturn: this possesseth the more secret intelligencies, and quiet contemplations of the minde. I call here, the contemplation, the free perspicacity of the minde, suspended with admiration upon the beholding of wisdom. For that excogitation which is made by riddles, and images, is a certain kind of speculation, or discourse belonging to Jupiter, and not a contemplation.”
“The sixth degree answers to Jupiter: this possesseth the discourses of reason, deliberations, consultations, and moral purgations: of these we have spoken in part above, and further we shall speak afterwards; It possesseth also admirations, and venerations, at the astonishment of which, the phantasie [phantasy], and reason are sometimes so restrained, that they suddenly let pass all their own actions: whence then the minde it self being free, and exposed to a diety [deity] only, whether to any God, or Demon, doth receive supernal, and divine influences, viz. those concerning which it did deliberate before. So we read that the Sybils [Sibyls], and the Priests of Pythia were wont to receive oracles in the caves of Jupiter, and Apollo.
  • Mars – Clio – Bassarius
The fifth degree is answerable to Mars: this possesseth vehement imaginations, and affections of the minde, conceits also, and motions thereof, of all which before.”
The fourth degree belongs to the sphear [sphere] of the Sun; this possesseth voyces [voices], words, singings, and harmonical sounds, by the sweet consonancy whereof it drives forth of the minde any troublesomeness therein, and chears [cheers] it up. Whence Hermes, Pythagoras, Plato, advise us to compose a discontented minde, and chear [cheer] it up by singing and harmony. So Timotheus is said to have with sounds stirred up King Alexander to a phrensie [phrensy]: so the Priest Calame (Aurelius Augustus being witness) was wont at his pleasure by a certain shrill harmony to call himself forth out of his body into a rapture, and extasie [ecstasy]; of these also we have before spoken.”
  • Venus – Erato – Lysius
The third degree answers to the sphear [sphere] of Venus; This possesseth subtile powders, vapours, and odours, and oyntments [ointments], and suffumigations, which are made of these of which we have spoke above.”
“The second degree resembling Mercury, possesseth those things which are from animals, and which are compounded of the mixtion of divers natural things together, as Cups, and Meats; upon this account the heart of a Mole, if anyone shall eat it whilest it is warm, and panting, conduceth, as it is said, to the foretelling of future events. And Rabbi Moses in his commentaries upon Leviticus tells, that there is an animal called òåãç Jedua, having a humane shape, in the midle [middle] of whose navel comes forth a string, by which it is fastened to the ground like a gourd, and as far as the length of that string reacheth, it devours and consumes all that is green about it, and deceiving the sight, cannot be taken, unless that string he cut off by the stroke of a dart, which being cut off, it presently dies. Now the bones of this animal being after a certain manner laid upon the mouth, presently he whose mouth they are laid on, is taken with a phrensie [phrensy], and soothsaying.
The inferior of these resembling the sphear [sphere] of the Moon, possesseth those things which are from vegetables, as plants, fruits of trees, roots, and those which are from harder matters, as Stones, Metals, their alligations, and suspensions. So it is said that the stone Selenites i.e. Moon-Stone, and the stone of the Civet-cat cause divination; also Vervain, and the Hearb [herb] Theangelis cause soothsaying, as hath been ahove said.”


He goes on to tell us in the next chapter that: 
“Now the second phrensie [phrensy] proceeds from Dionysius: this doth by expiations exterior, and interior, and by conjurations, by mysteries, by solemnities, rites, temples, and observations divert the soul into the mind, the supream [supreme] part of it self, and makes it a fit and pure temple of the Gods, in which the divine spirits may dwell, which the soul then possessing as the associate of life, is filled by them with felicity, wisdom, and oracles, not in signs, and marks, or conjectures, but in a certain concitation of the mind, and free motion: So Bacchus did soothsay to the Beotians, and Epimenides to the people of Cous, and the Sybil [Sibyl] Erithea to the Trojans. Sometimes this phrensie [phrensy] happens through a clear vision, sometimes by an express voyce: So Socrates was governed by his Demon, whose counsel he did diligently obey, whose voyce [voice] he did often hear with his ears, to whom also the shape of a Demon did often appear.”
This seems to me to be oracular revelation via Genius or Daemon; and to this end, I shall quiet myself, as I've already written enough on the topic of attempting to conjure or find the Genius in the past. However, he also goes on to write that:
“Many prophesying spirits also were wont to shew themselves, and be associats with the souls of them that were purified; examples of which there are many in sacred Writ, as in Abraham, and his bond maid Hagar, in Jacob, Gideon, Elias, Tobias, Daniel, and many more. So Adam had familiarity with the Angel Raziel. Shem the son of Noah with Jophiel; Abraham with Zadkiel: Isaac and Jacob with Peliel; Joseph, Joshua and Daniel with Gabriel; Moses with Metattron [Metatron]; Elias with Malhiel; Tobias the younger with Raphael; David with Cerniel; Mannoah with Phadael; Cenez with Cerrel; Ezekiel with Hasmael; Esdras with Uriel; Solomon with Michael. Sometimes the spirits by vertue of the souls enter into, and seize upon organical bodies, whether of brutes or men, and using the souls thereof as the basis, utter voyces [voices] through organical instruments, as is manifest in Baalams Ases, and in Saul, on whom the spirit of the Lord fell, and Prophecyed. Of these Apollo in his answers in Porphyry thus;
Phebean fulgor charmed, did from on high
Come down, and through pure air was silently
Conveyed; came into souls well purified
With a sonorous breath, a voyce uttered
Through a mortal throat -----
I am not entirely sure what to make of the last section in this chapter. It seems to confirm that the Daemon could be anything, and that it acts on the man, but... I don't know if what I'm reading in this section is the same as what Agrippa is writing.

Finally, on the topic of Phrensie in and of itself, in the last chapter linked he writes that:
“Therefore we must know, that (according to the doctrine of the Aegyptians,) seeing the soul is a certain spirituall light, when it is loosed from the body, it comprehendeth every place and time, in such a manner as a light inclosed in a Lanthern [lantern], which being open, difffseth it self every where, and faileth not any where, for it is every where, and continually; and Cicero in his book of Divination saith, neither doth the soul of man at any time divine, [except] when it is so loosed that it hath indeed little or nothing to do with the body; when therefore it shall attain to that state, which is the supream [supreme] degree of contemplative perfection, then it is rapt from all created species, and understandeth not by acquired species, but by the inspection of the Ideas, and it knoweth all things by the light of the Ideas: of which light Plato saith few men are partakers in this life; but in the hands of the gods, all: also they who are troubled with the syncope and falling sickness, do in some manner imitate a rapture, and in these sicknesses sometimes as in a rapture do bring forth prophesie [prophecy], in which kind of prophesying we read that Hercules and many Arabians were very excellent, and there are certain kinds of soothsayings, which are a middle betwixt the confines of naturall predictions, and supernaturall Oracles...”

EDIT: One more link, via Melita Benu, entitled A Quasi-Ceremonial Orphic Banishing Ritual. Totally worth looking at.

And let me add that that blog, in general, is made of goddamn win.


Brother Christopher said...

when I read the section on phrensy in Agrippa, I thought to myself "forget trance or altered states of consciousness, it is all about phrensy." thank you for posting this, I have often thought of doing so myself

Rufus Opus said...

I am not entirely sure what to make of the last section in this chapter. It seems to confirm that the Daemon could be anything, and that it acts on the man, but... I don't know if what I'm reading in this section is the same as what Agrippa is writing.

My interpretation is that the oracular spirits can descend through the aethyrs and use the vocal cords of man or beast to speak directly to those who need to receive the revelation. It doesn't matter if the vocal cords tapped for this purpose are man or beast's.

Is that what you mean by the Daemon can be anything and that it acts on the man? The spirit can speak through any living thing, and "the man" being acted upon is the one speaking the prophecy?

Jack Faust said...

@Chris: Always happy to provide some correspondences. This could be a lot of fun for me.

@R.O. Yes, and no. Agrippa begins by saying that "any prophesying spirits also were wont to shew themselves, and be associats with the souls of them that were purified". I take this to mean that they will only reveal themselves to properly purified individuals; suggesting religious rites, or at the very least, the prototypical fasting and praying prior to evocation (or... whatever).

He kind've seems to differentiate this, at least to me, with: "Sometimes the spirits by vertue of the souls enter into, and seize upon organical bodies, whether of brutes or men, and using the souls thereof as the basis, utter voyces [voices] through organical instruments, as is manifest in Baalams Ases, and in Saul, on whom the spirit of the Lord fell, and Prophecyed." This sounds like spontaneous possession for a specific purpose. It's contextually different, at least to me, from the first set that he discusses. While the same spirit may be acting on the person, they're doing so for different purposes. At least, that's how I read it.

But that's what I mean.

And sorry, typos have been corrected, I think.

Rufus Opus said...

Since he uses Balaam's Ass and Saul as examples, I think he's saying that in addition to the purified souls, the spirits will use whatever's available, whether it's purified or not.

Saul was actively opposed to God's will when the Spirit of the Lord came on him, and he stripped off his clothes and prophesied. God had selected David to be King, and Saul was like, fuck that, and was trying to kill him (1 Samuel 19 for context).

Rufus Opus said...

So, I read the passages as an ongoing description. Like "Over here we see that the spirits were said to prophesy through purified instruments. And over here we see that the spirits also could come down and speak through the vocal chords of men and beasts against their nature or will, if necessary."

Jack Faust said...

@R.O.: Yes, yes, yes. Thank you! I... hadn't thought of referencing the Biblical passages. I agree with you, 100%. The example of Saul is awesome.

Jack Faust said...

@Chris: One point, though. I don't think the spirit is going to notice you or care to chat with you and inspire Phrensie without the trance and altered states work. If we might take the poets as examples; they had to learn to become seers before they could use the Muses to work the poetic arts. This suggests developing a relationship and skillset that suits the oracle, to me.

Jack Faust said...

@R.O.: When I want to anchor the spirit to either the fluid condenser or the magic mirror, do you see any problems with using the traditional planetary hexagrams to help make the environment more hospitable?

Rufus Opus said...

I don't use the planetary hexagrams, they're a tradition that goes back to the Golden Dawn's reinterpretation of Hermetics, as far as I know. They assigned a planet to each point using some system I don't recognize by looking at the banishing and invoking hexagrams. The order of the planets around the hexagram in the Ars Paulina Table of Practice follows a different order, and there's nothing about banishing or invoking hexagrams in the traditional rites. What makes them valid? Mr. Bradford would likely be able to justify its use in a GD context, but I can't. Plus there's only six points, and seven planets. To do the Sun, you've got to do all six banishing hexagrams, or all six invoking hexagrams, it looks like.

I'm not big on Metaphysical charades. I cut out all the signs of the Grades when I did Samekh, and I only trot them out these days when I go dancing. Which is to say, never.

If it were me, I'd conjure ye olde muse and request a sigil, and then put that somewhere on the fluid condenser as an anchor. Maybe reciting the planetary Orphic Hymns would set the atmosphere? Is there a hymn to the muses?

Rufus Opus said...

Ooooo! How about a Hymn to Musaeus followed by the Hymn to the Muses? Then a oratory conjuration of the specific Muse?

I'm picturing how I would do it in a Magic Circle, like the one from the Lemegeton's Goetia with the four candles around the circle, seated where it says Magister, conjure the HGA, explain the intent and get its aid, then do the Hymn to Musaeus, then the hymn to the Muses, and then a specific conjuration of the particular Muse, request and record a sigil, put the sigil on the fluid condenser, then ask the Muse to work through it to accomplish whatever I want it to accomplish.

I want a big piece of canvas that I can put a Magic Circle on like Bryan Garner has. That would rock.

Jack Faust said...

@R.O: Hehe. Excellent suggestions. Many thanks. I can tighten a few "almost traditional" sequences together. As for the muses, I do have one song most have not encountered on hand:

Sigh. I think I need to construct or retrieve an Orphic Hymn for Eurus. Then I can use Quarter Calls and back them up with Orphic hymns...

Jack Faust said...


Rufus Opus said...

Quarter calls? Are you using the Wiccan Ritual Magick Template(TM) on this one?

Rufus Opus said...

Holy shit, I've been looking for the names of the eight Winds from the Tower of the Winds for years. Not actively, but you know. Thinking it would be nice to look for them at least.


Jack Faust said...

Maybe. I know the rituals and ought to be using them more often in my personal rituals. I have been tempted to test Quarter Calls with the hymns since I noticed that three of the four have Orphic hymns. The problem is Eurus. According to JSK, that hymn has been lost since Agrippa's day. and so... I need to make it or try something odd.

Rufus Opus said...

Whatever you come up with, I'm sure it will be made of pure awesome. You're doing some excellent stuff here, sir. Much respect.

Why Eurus instead of Apeliotes?

Jack Faust said...

@R.O.: This is a rare deference of mine to Homer. He placed the four major Wind Gods at the quarters, associated with the Seasons, and Eurus is in his lineup. The later Philosophical writers wanted the Wind Gods to better line up against the compass, and so they included the other (usually less happy) Wind Gods at the cross quarter positions. This lineup changed Eurus from East to South-East.

What's fun about this little factor is that it shows that Doreen Valiente drew off Homer for the Wind Gods and Quarter Calls, and not the later Philosophical literature that changed the lineup.

Christopher Bradford said...

Hmm....Mr.Opus, I could justify them in a ritual context because they work, haha, but perhaps not in a historical context. There are a bunch of GD papers that delineate the use of the Hexagram, and how to use it, and it works well. The bit about drawing it a billion times for the Sun is true, though, and I think that's silly. Especially when there are seven-pointed stars readily available.

That being said, I use heptagrams/septagrams in my personal practice, and leave the Hexagram for symbolizing unity between the heavens and earth...The Heptagram is very useful, in that it has two forms which can nestle within each other in a heptagon. Nice symbol of unity between the macro and micro there as well, with emphasis on the Seven.
I use this to differentiate between working with the external Stars and the Internal Stars--one heptagram for external planets, and the one that fits within it for internal planets.

Mr.Flash, this is awesome stuff here.

Rufus Opus said...

Mr. Bradford, s'about time you got here.

Works well to do what, exactly, without any historical context? It's obvious they just sort of threw the Tree of Life associations on a Star of David, moving Binah over a bit to make it fit. And we know from the LBRP they have you building the Tree of Life into the sphere of the magician, creating the astral nodes in the actual subtle body.

But look at it. If you trace the points along the nodes of the Body of Light that correspond to the Hexagram, you're activating very specific sequences of planetary forces. It's like an old punch card computer, or the disk on an antique music box that plucks certain keys at certain times to create different melodies.

What melodies are being played when someone does the Invoking Hexagram of Jupiter, for example? Jupiter-Moon-Mars, Mercury-Saturn-Venus? You strum that chord, and what happens, exactly, in this Sunless Pattern?

And admit it, that picture they have of the order you trace the patterns in is misleading on purpose. We know from the Q-Cross that Geburah, Mars is in the right shoulder, not the left as it would appear in the drawing. Either the order you trace the hexagram in is correct and the planetary path I listed above is accurate, or it's secretly the opposite order of planets. If I point my right finger in the upper right hand corner, I'm actually pointing from Mars in my Body of Light, so it goes Mars-Moon-Jupiter, then Venus-Saturn-Mercury, a totally different harmonic indeed.

And yet you assert that it "works." Just what are you activating when you trace those patterns? Hmmmm? HMMMMMM?!?


But yeah, I think the SDA is the very best planetary septagram evar. It makes such perfect sense.

I still wouldn't use it for a banishing or invoking tool. Just a kind of map.

Christopher Bradford said...

Haha, I came back to read more about this phrensy business, and it had gone from zero comments to a dozen. Would've kicked in earlier if blogger let you tag folks with their name.=)

As for the GD Hexagram--Mr.Opus, it works for invoking and dismissing Planetary forces, of course. And does so quite well, for countless magicians over the last century or so! Likely for countless witches and pagans as well, if what I've seen of their ritual practices stands. Surely you don't think magical symbols need historical reference to work? How many sloppy-ass sigils have been used to successfully contact a Spirit? The signal may not be perfectly clear, but it seems to still get through just fine. Our barbarous words from the PGM work just fine as well, and who even knows what they're supposed to mean? Could be we're incanting someones millenia-old shopping list. Haha. Still get's the job done. I find the septagram more harmonious mentally for me, but used the hexagram successfully for years before changing.

Now, I suppose if someone where to trace those planetary sequences with the Intent of activating a series of forces, all kinds of shenanigans would come into play. But. They don't. The Hexagram is only ever used to play a single Note, as it were.

Also, the picture isn't misleading at all--just like the Image of Adam Kadmon you find in one of the early Order papers, the magician is supposed to super-impose them over a reflection. If you were to draw a man on the same paper, and place the hexagram over him, you'd find everything in the correct spot. Saturn stands at the point--where Da'ath would be--because of his standing related to the Abyss. The difficulty you're experiencing is because you are viewing all these things in chunks, and not from the standpoint of someone working the GD system....;-)

Now this pointing "from Mars" business is very interesting. If we think of things this way, then every movement we make with the right arm in ritual is invocative of Martial forces...which can be useful and used, but sometimes your arm is just your arm. The Martial forces would only come into play with intent.

Ahh, yes, the SDA. Best septagram ever, true enough! I find that they are excellent for concentrating the virtue of a given planet in the thing it is drawn upon, especially if the timing is correct. But, to each his own.

Rufus Opus said...

Seems a sloppy way of doing business, sir! Damned sloppy.

And speaking of sloppy, I've never drawn a sloppy-ass sigil in my life. My sigils are always perfect. :D

I agree sometimes an arm is just an arm, but I wasn't talking about the arm being the activating force, necessarily, just that by starting in the upper-right, you're activating the Mars planetary node you've built into that area in your body of light. If you start on the left, you're starting with Jupiter, even though the arm is connected to your body in the general vicinity of the Mars Node.

And that picture of Adam Kadmon should be on every image of the hexagram and pentagram rites out there. Kind of an important thing, innit?

I never saw it, by the way, figured that out on my own. Thought I was damned clever, too.

I also agree that only one note is being played, multiple threads manipulated in sequence to produce the chord. I don't believe for a second that any conscious intent is required to activate the program. The instructions indicate the visualizations that are to be deployed, don't they? The colors to trace by the Queen and King scales, and the divine names to intone as you sketch the sigil of the planet. Could someone perform that kind of coordinated physiological-illuminated-oral act without activating the program?

Of course not!

And there is certainly no difficulty here on my part. I think it's pretty obvious what's really going on when you do the Hexagram rites.

You're opening The Way and through the Crawling Chaos the psycho-luminescence is transmitted to the nodes of The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young where her phantasm-spawn collect it like pollen and dew before delivering it to the Priest of the Elder Gods, who dreams beneath the sea.

I'm watching you.

Christopher Bradford said...

Dammit, RO....You've found us out!

Ever Their praises, and abundance to the Black Goat of the Woods. Iä! Shub-Niggurath!

Looks like I'll be having to pay you a visit, soon, brother. SOMEONE wants to speak with you....


Some interestingness...

via Wiki:

The Black Goat may be the personification of Pan, since Lovecraft was influenced by Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan (1890), a story that inspired Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror" (1929). In this incarnation, the Black Goat may represent Satan in the form of the satyr, a half-man, half-goat. In folklore, the satyr symbolized a man with excessive sexual appetites. The Black Goat may otherwise be a male, earthly form of Shub-Niggurath — an incarnation she assumes to copulate with her worshipers.[15]


"The reference to "Astarte", the consort of Baal in Semitic mythology, ties Shub-Niggurath to the related fertility goddess Cybele, the Magna Mater mentioned in Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls", and implies that the "great mother worshipped by the hereditary cult of Exham Priory" in that story "had to be none other than Shub-Niggurath."[8]

Shib-Nuggarath worship is that of the great Mother, who is also a Hermaphrodite that populates the world through Union with a male aspect? I might actually Be a worshipper, hahaha. Sounds like my Saturnus and his wife Rhea...;-)

Hahaha. That bubba bit had me rolling, man. Excellent.

Jack Faust said...

I always figured Bradford had probably talked with Nyar.Lat.Hotep. as much as I have... He is a black inverse Mercurial Pharoah, after all. And unlike Shub and Yog, Nyar will actually talk to you. Lol.

Christopher Bradford said...

Nyarlathotep....I had some dealings with that fellow. He's how I discovered that the Lovecratian mythos was actually usable and dangerous, hahaha.

Cancel Saturnus and Rhea. The Goat of a Thousand Young is Baphomet, in all of it's androgynous glory.

Christopher Bradford said...

Not androgynous, beg pardon. Hermaphroditic. Ha.

Scylla said...

Re: Lovecraft - Tyson's Necronomicon and Grimoire.

I drew that after reading it, and could not sleep without being plagued by the image until I finished it.