book review: hermes, guide of souls by karl kerenyi

Hermes is connected with the fourth day of the month and the number four, in general. July 4th is a very special day for the West, as it represents the crowning achievement of the Enlightenment and Western thought; the founding of The United States of America. Ideas of democracy have always been connected to the culture of Greece, and the marks of that ancient culture are all over the place in the U.S.A., from the eagle of Zeus atop our flag, the neoclassical architecture of Capitol Hill, and to the murals of Greek and Egyptian ideas in the Library of Congress. 

Chemistry, in the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building, by Walter Shirlaw, 1898

I’ve been searching for second year curriculum books in anticipation of our membership launch this coming August, which will lead into first year material in March of 2018 for the foundational elements leading up to Mutational Alchemy material which will be presented in the third year. (Yes, it is that involved.) So, naturally I went out and acquired every book on Hermes possible. It’s so difficult finding the perfect book for the job, in any branch of the Hermetic arts.
       Few books on Hermes himself have been quite as lovely and thoughtfully written as Karl Kerenyi’s Hermes, Guide of Souls. Even though it goes over common material like the Odyssey, Kerenyi reveals himself as a crack researcher who notices every little detail Homer instilled in his masterpiece, and manages to reveal Hermes in a way that few other books are able to. Many, like The Egyptian Hermes by Garth Fowden, are very insightful, yet they miss the essence of Hermes as he interests Hermetic Alchemists. 

Instead of focusing on the obvious, Kerenyi “hacks away the inessentials” to reveal the true Hermes, even touching on the mysterious and sinister titanesque nature of the Prince of Thieves, in his thirst for flesh and blood and devotes an entire chapter to his connection to the night.
   It’s definitely an interesting, worthwhile read, and while I would like to say it is the *best* book on Hermes (who has been experiencing a spike in popularity on Reddit’s Occult sub) I haven’t yet passed through 50% of the Hermes books I’ve been reviewing.  It is much less dry than Garth Fowden’s “The Egyptian Hermes” which is an incredible window into the ancient world of Graeco-Egyptian life and packed with useful information, but might leave many readers yawning throughout some of the more technical bits.
      That being said, both books are worth a peak if you love Hermes already. I’m not sure it’s for every pagan and occultists out there, but it is at least both represent scholarly, careful work.  
      Kerenyi explores the works of many other writers such as the classical philologist Walter Friedrich Otto, who influenced him deeply:

Danger lurks everywhere. Out of the dark
jaws of the night which gape beside the
traveler, any moment a robber may emerge
without warning, or some eerie terror, or the
uneasy ghost of a dead man–who knows what may 
once have happened at that very spot? Perhaps
mischievous apparitions of the fog seek to 
entice him from the right path into the desert
where horror dwells, where wanton witches dance
their rounds which no man ever leaves alive.
Who can protect him, guide him aright, give
him good counsel? The spirit of Night itself,
the genius of its kindliness, its enchantment,
its resourcefulness, and its profound wisdom.
She is indeed the mother of all mystery. The
weary she wraps in slumber, delivers from care,
and she causes dreams to play about their souls.
Her protection is enjoyed by the unhappy and 
persecuted as well as by the cunning, whom
her ambivalent shadows offer a thousand 
devices and contrivances. With her veil she
also shields lovers, and her darkness keeps
ward over all caresses, all charms hidden and
revealed. Music is the true language of her
mystery–the enchanting voice which sounds for
eyes that are closed and in which heaven and
earth, the near and the far, man and nature,
present and past, appear to make themselves
understood.

But the darkness of night which so sweetly
invited to slumber also bestows new vigilance
and illumination upon the spirit. It makes
it more perceptive, more acute, more enter-
prising. Knowledge flares up, or descends like
a shooting star-rare, precious, even magical
knowledge. 

And so night, which can terrify the solitary
man and lead him astray, can also be his friend,
his helper, his counselor.

– Otto, The Homeric Gods

Kerenyi himself was a friend of Carl Jung and a famed mythographer and classicist. The book is 149 pages and was first published in Switzerland in 1944 in the German language. 

Featured Image: The Souls on the Banks of the Acheron by Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1898

!dif02

botanicals-of-magick

With fall fast approaching our thoughts turn to the ancient Rites of Eleusis. Entheogens are an honored part of The Abrahadabra Institute’s traditions and we will be spending the remainder of the summer discussing various aspects of the shamanic path. The central figures in the Rites of Eleusis centered around Demeter and Persephone, and took place in the Spring, while initiates were inducted in September of the following year. The Greek Rites of Eleusis were eventually subsumed and supplanted by the Graeco-Roman Rites of Mithras, a Persian import with close parallels to antediluvian Assyrian religious rights, seen in particular with the twin gods Cautes and Cautopates who accompany Mithras. We find the twin gods reflected in the Akkadian-Assyrian-Sumerian figures of Laz and Nergal, predating Mitra in Persia by thousands of years.

faucher

A later reproduction by Faucher-Guden of an original tablet depicting the god above and behind the scene as a lion, protecting the goddess Ereshkigal (Arabic: Allat) Queen of the Underworld who is shown suckling two lion cubs, probably Laz and Nergal. This underscores the popular ancient mystery of the eternal Goddess producing and reproducing with the dying God in an infinite cycle.

faucher2

The rear of the tablet reveals the form of Nergal (and Laz) as being that of the two chimera supporting the serpents on the Ningishzidda grail, and of Pazuzu. 

These warrior twins are also depicted in one of the ancient Middle-East’s constellations. Nergal had some connotations of Abrasax in his symbological associations as a rooster, an aggressive warrior-like animal according to firsthand Hebrew historical record, and the pair’s other symbolic animal, the lion, is closely associated with Mithraism in the godform Zervan or Aion. Nergal’s cult had died out by the time the Persian Mitra had become popularized but there is a thread of continuity visible to syncreticists in the nature of the details. Mithraeums, for example, are located underground reflecting his connection to the underworld, ergot may be a hallucinogen but it also causes gangrene to develop due to the restriction of the blood vessels at extremities (Nergal is a god of the underworld and pestilence like his close parallel or possibly his twin Laz or Pazuzu). For the Greeks who had been practicing the Rites of Eleusis for two millienia, these attributes naturally flowed with the narrative of Persephone being abducted by Hades. Therefore as the patriarchial age dawned the torch of growth and reason passed from the Mother to the Father. Demeter was all about agriculture, and with that mystery fully explored the attention of Mankind began focusing on political and social structure. Mithras is a god of contracts, friendship and love, but it is no secret it was a drug cult. possibly utilizing the red and white fly agaric mushroom inspiring the colors and nature our modern Solstice Sun God pater, Santa Claus. The death of the two millenia old Rites of Eleusis to the more masculine Rites of Mithras reflects the passage of the Aeons as defined by Aleister Crowley, from Mother Goddess (Demeter & Persephone) to father God (Mithras) and finally our current Aeon beginning in 1904 of Ra Hoor Khut as revealed by the Book of the Law, Liber al vel Legis. 
      Now it should be clear to anyone who has read this far that drugs have been with us for a long time, in fact they form the very foundation of Western Civilization, the greatest civilization on earth at this time (See Mushrooms, Myth and Mithras by Carl Ruck). I want to start by talking to people who have never ventured into the realm of psychotropic substances. There’s a lot of scare propaganda out there. Some drugs are completely worthy of their terrifying reputation, such as methamphetamine, various deliriants, barbituates, benzodiazepenes and others. Quite a few have been wrongly accused of  evil effects, when in fact they may hold the cures for many diseases, such as the recently redeemed Cannabis plant. (See Dr Sanjay Gupta’s article “Why I Changed My Mind on Weed at http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/08/health/gupta-changed-mind-marijuana/

wildcannabis
Cannibas Plant “New York Sour Diesel”
      Right now it is easier than ever to access exciting and legal substances. Some of these are dangerous and havn’t been looked at by the FDA yet, so caution is absolutely necessary, and in fact should always be your companion when playing around with the gateways and machinery of the mind. On the other hand, ignoring these tools and failing to learn about the tricks our mind plays on us and what it is capable of, is an even more dangerous mistake. Occultists especially ignore this area of study at their own peril. 
      If safety is a concern, and one lives in a place where cannabis is legal, this is one of the safest ways to begin experimenting with entheogenic practice and it is quite respectable in and of itself classically. Cannabis can be a trickster though, and not all highs are pleasant I must warn you. It can cause paranoia, drowsiness and many strange unsettling sensations and distortions to occur in the mind. Weed was legalized here in Washington State just over a dozen and a half moons ago, and the effects on our city have been quite interesting. People seem calmer and happier. Maybe it’s just my perception but with so many weed stores around all of that product has to be going somewhere. 
      Because drug laws are focused on the chemical makeup of the drug that is to be restricted, chemical factories have begun producing substances that have never before existed. By the time laws can catch up, the factories have already invented a new substance. Many of them mimic authentic Berkeley LSD and other famous drugs which don’t exist in the black market anymore due to the “success” of the War on Drugs. Some of them are dangerous because they cause hallucinations bordering on delirium. Both synthetic legals and regulated natural drugs may be purchased online at Shayanashop.com, a company based in the Netherlands (where the drugs they sell are completely legal). If a user wants anonymity they’ll need to use Tor and Bitcoin to access the deepweb markets. Many guides exist online to show a user how to do this, I won’t go into it here. 
      There’s a common misconception among occultists who are “clean” that the plant kingdom doesn’t have anything to add to their practice. Ignoring the fact that mankind has never existed in a vacuum and is constantly being bombarded with the effects of all life that it consumes, they say that there is nothing they cannot achieve without drugs. This is a false perception and should be refuted. I was taught and practiced magick from the time I was a toddler until I was twenty seven years old when I accidently encountered the effects of Datura stramonium. This is a very advanced plant with the traits of a delirient so it is considered to be very dangerous as it makes it nearly impossible to separate the illusion from reality. When ingested it’s also highly poisonous, but the skin transfer method filters out the deadliest compounds. Witches have rubbed its essence on their skin for centuries to “fly”. Even though this time honored method is saffer, one still has to deal with the dangers of tachychardia from the other elements in the chemicals of the plant. Strength varies widly from season-to-season, from one genetic strain to another.  Despite the dangers and some unpleasantness, it opened my eyes to the remarkable and indispensable effects of psychedelic substances. Fortuitously I was corresponding with m1thr0s at the time and using his mirrors. As world class expert on shamanic practice he was able to correspond to me a safe passage through the terrain of the delirium state I found myself in. Graham Hancock talks about a firsthand experience that is useful in this reading from his book Supernatural. 

      The mirrors of Mutational Alchemy are useful when sober, but take on an unimaginable dimension of power and authority over the mind when indulging in psychotropic substances of just about any kind. There’s really no point in bothering to study m1thr0s’s mirrors if you’re not going to commit right now to eventually viewing it on a psychotropic substance, for they are not complete without soma. Passage to realms beyond the abyss are within the grasp of occultists like never before using m1thr0s’s keys. Diagrams of the Sephiroth alone are not able to catapult one to union with Ain Soph Aur. People should be clamoring to utilize and possess the Adam Kadmon as revealed by The Abrahadabra Institute doctrine but they don’t understand it yet. If they understood anything about the Rites of Eleusis they would possess the wisdom to appreciate the gravity and power of the Adam Kadmon and Abrahadabra mirrors.  The biggest hurdle standing between the people of general Occultism and Abrahadabra is the psychotropic link. Once you partake in the true soma, a dimensional element kicks in that changes everything about the art of Mutational Alchemy. The mirrors dance – fake “mandalas” and most “visionary art” fade into dull mediocrity in comparison to the technical perfection of these mirrors. The Mutational Alchemy mirrors reveal themselves in the light of entheogenic practice as the keys to the doors of universal consciousness.  None of the visionary art of today can match it. 
      Make no mistake, the TwinStar and the Diamond can be used in everyday life and be very effective, but to truly understand their special importance one must see them on their own turf. We are not here to hold the hands of people unwilling to venture into such forbidden territory, they’d be best off sticking to their old ways and leave us alone. I issue this statement (and for some, revelation) only because to many people who would otherwise know what to do next, the mirrors do not make sense and they are unlikely to ever be anything special unless they are possessed of extraordinary sensitivity to power. Drugs, especially psychedelic drugs can open the floodgates to power and magick like nothing else can. No excuses can ever substitute for their physical power and force in activating the phenomenon that the Body of Light is famous for. The mirrors extend the high for hours longer, and often days longer than the drugs normally allow for, signifying that the drugs themselves are only acting as booster rockets for takeoff. The phenomenon you will encounter is actually the body of light in action. 
      The game that occult authors play concerning their neglect of entheogenic substances is dangerous and dishonest, and it should not be tolerated. We live in a world populated by vast numbers of species, and our consumption of lifeforms is a time honored tradition that must include the sacred psychedelic substances found in some plants. It is not authentic Hermeticism if we are willing to partake of the wisdom of the ancient Greek rites which included drugs. It should go without saying from this point on that The Abrahadabra Institute is not an organization for puritanical idealists bent on distorting Hermeticism to suit their own shallow views of the world based on misguided modern ideology. 

What Is it Like?

It’s very difficult to convey what it feels like to partake in the sacraments to someone who has never ventured that far into their practice. Many songs, poems and scripts have been written about the experience, directly and allegorically.  There are two main camps for drug users: the sacred and the profane. Both paths are useful in their own way and both can be dangerous. Black Sabbath’s The Wizard, Fleetwood Mac’s Gold Dust Woman, Sia’s Chandelier, and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” are all discussing elements of profane drug use, aligned with the ancient cultural zeitgeist of Dionysus/The Bacchante. Like these songs, drugs were long associated with the symbol of the mad and wild woman, sometimes wrapped in the skin of a leopard, the beast of Dionysus, and sometimes accompanying a live leopard while carrying a bushel of barley or some other symbol of entheogens used in the cult. She is something akin to the infamous Iboga drug god mentioned in the earlier video by Graham Hancock. 

Bouguereau,_Bacchante_sur_une_panthère,_1855

Sacred drug use has just as long a history as profane drug use, and the two often overlap in society classically. However the modern age has seen a sharp decline in ritual paired with entheogens, and this has left mankind a state of perilous decay. Confucius, one of the great advocates for the I Ching believed that ritual was the binding fabric of mankind, that it served to unite them in civility and reasoned discourse. This idea echoes the goals of The Enlightenment with a special Eastern perspective, and one which we do not have to reject as threatening to Western values. Problematically it is common in the West today not to fuss about with unnecessary things, and ritual is often seen as unnecessary. This could not be further from the truth, considering that ritual can be the highest form of communication available to us, and just as Confucius believed, it does in fact unite mankind in civility when it is done with grace and beauty and behind a cause that is good and righteous. Ritual should not be left only to the government, military and the religious right, but should be adopted and adapted by all men to suit their beliefs, fancy and needs. 
      In the case of the Magus, the ritual must include entheogens from time to time, minimally once a year if they are to be considered serious about this work at all. This rite should bear little resemblance to the mostly useless act of dropping acid at a festival or smoking weed in front of the tv. Instead much care, focus and planning should go into setting up the area in which you will indulge in the time with the sacred. I will go into this in greater detail in my next article.