Part Three – Isolation – The Hermetic Womb
The next step on our path of bringing order to the chaotic mass of conflicting emotions, ideas, and instinctual urges that at the moment dominate our subconscious and keep us from fully utilizing its power – a power that turns us into a cause in the universe, thereby creating the effects we desire – is cultivating a positive selfishness or healthy ego, a sense of self in the material world, its relation to others, and to the invisible realms.
Dr. Stephen Edred Flowers has noted that there are many similarities between Hermeticism and what is often called the Left-Hand Path (LHP) in his book Lords of the Left-Hand Path (Runa-Raven Press). In an unpublished appendix to the first edition of his book on the Fraternity of Saturn, Fire and Ice (originally published by Llewellyn, now available through Runa-Raven Press), he describes the philosophy and methods of the LHP as follows:
“…[T]he left-hand path is…the path of non-union with the objective universe. It is the way of isolating consciousness within the subjective universe and, in a state of self-imposed psychic solitude, refining the soul or psyche to ever more perfect levels. The objective universe is then made to harmonize itself with the will of the individual psyche instead of the other way around. Where the right-hand path is theocentric (or certainly allocentric – “other-centered”), the left-hand path is psychecentric, or soul/self-centered. Those within the left-hand path may argue over the nature of this self…but that the individual is the epicenter of the path itself seems undisputed. An eternal separation of the individual intelligence from the objective universe is sought in the left-hand path. This amounts to an immortality of the independent self-consciousness moving with the objective universe and interacting with it at will. [emphasis added]”
Given this context it is no surprise that the term “hermetically sealed” refers to a condition wherein nothing can enter from the outside. Using a play on words so typical of Hermeticism and known as “the language of the birds,” we can also read this as being “sealed hermetically” or bearing the seal, mark, or stamp of Hermes, as official seals were the generally accepted means of marking boundaries and warning against intrusion. We need only remind ourselves of the seals on Egyptian tombs as warnings, or even the use of wax seals on correspondences as a means of keeping their contents private, to understand this symbolism.
Let us compare Flowers’s statements to what Dr. Joscelyn Godwin writes in The Golden Thread: The Ageless Wisdom of the Western Mystery Traditions (Quest Books):
“A few of the [Chaldean] Oracles suggest that the Juliani [the Roman authors of the Oracles] and their circles also had an idea of bodily transmutation as a means towards immortality. For example:
The oracles of the Gods declare, that through purifying ceremonies, not the soul only, but bodies themselves become worthy of receiving much assistance and health; for say they the mortal vestment of bitter matter will, by this means, be preserved.
…However, if we try to penetrate this deeper wisdom with the help of modern Hermetic schools, we meet a more esoteric and perhaps disturbing doctrine. According to these schools, while the essence of each human is immortal, it is also impersonal. The personality does not survive, at least not long after the bodily death, and consequently there is nothing left of most people’s souls once they have been filtered through the planetary spheres. The vast majority will be extinguished personalities soon after death, while their essence may be recycled as entirely different entities. To put it plainly, there is no guarantee of personal immortality, whatever comforting doctrines may say to the contrary. The ambition of the Hermetic adept is to survive this general dissolution, and if he should be incarnate again, to do so only through deliberate choice, not through bondage to a natural process like everyone else. In order to pass beyond the boundaries of the cosmos (symbolized by the starry sphere) and enter consciously into another mode of existence, the adept must have forged, during his life, a “radiant body” as vehicle for this individuality. This is obviously similar to the process described in the Chaldean Oracles…”
Further on Godwin quotes Helena Petrovna Blavatsky:
“The permanent preservation of a personal identity beyond death is a very rare achievement, accomplished only by those who wrest her secrets from Nature, and control their own super-material development… [It is] accomplished only by adepts and sorcerers – the one class having acquired the supreme secret knowledge by holy methods, and with benevolent motives, the other having acquired it by unholy methods, and for base motives.”
Godwin notes that this is possible because the physical world is not rejected in Hermeticism, but embraced “because it is infused with celestial influences, is a place of beauty and wonder.” Hermeticism seeks useful knowledge (like their later Masonic brethren) and reading and understanding the Book of Nature is the most useful of all.
If we are to fulfill our Hermetic destiny and be beings of presence and power in the universe, then mastery of the material world is a good place to start. Let us not be distracted by astral visions and dreams of the gods, but focus on the here and now, and proving to ourselves the efficacy of the doctrines and methods we have chosen. Indeed, the mind – our mind – truly is the supreme power in the universe.
- Some of the ancient schools saw the material world as essential to the perfecting of consciousness of the self and the spiritual domain.
- For laws to be universal they must apply to all conditions at all times, and to the visible world as well as the psychic and spiritual.
- We can learn about the actions and operations of the psychic and spiritual domains by studying and understanding the material world.
- The material world is a perfect expression of the subtle ideas of the mind.
- By mastering matter, we master our mind, our emotions, and ourselves.
- Mastery is the ability to control, direct, and create the conditions we desire, not – as is often stated – denial, repression, or relegating matter to second-place status.
- Dualistic philosophies are counter-initiatic, whereas seeing and experiencing the material and spiritual worlds as a single unified expression leads to integration and cosmic Illumination.
- By consciously organizing and picking those things we want to have in our life and directing the planetary energies of the day towards them on a regular basis, we harmonize our material, psychic, and spiritual centers of consciousness into a single expression or entity.
- It is possible to be “self” or “psyche” centered without being “selfish” or having disregard for the rights and needs of others.
- Several of the ancient and modern schools of Hermeticism affirms our “self-created” nature and the absence of a distant creator god. We have created ourselves and the world in order to evolve our self-awareness.
- Immortality of consciousness and immortality of the body are seen as the same in several traditional schools.
- Modern Hermeticism is life affirming and sees the material world as good, an expression of divine energy and truth.