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Gematria, Language and Magick

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.divination,alt.magick,alt.occult,talk.religion.misc
From: (nigris (333))
Subject: Gematria, Language and Magick
Date: 28 Feb 1998 19:11:57 -0800

49980111 aa2 Hail Satan!  

# >>>>Among South Pacific Cargo Cults, English is the 
# >>>>magickal language. and in Thelema too - after all, 
# >>>>our Holy Books were written in it.

# >>I thought we were talking about languages as "words of power" 
# >>-- e.g. Enochian, Latin liturgies or Hebrew god-names. Not 
# >>sure the "holy books" qualify as such. 

Charlie Dake  
# >A "Magical Language", to the best of my knowledge, is one in 
# >which the name is the thing being named.  Can you get the idea 
# >of a cat with no knowledge other than the letters "c" "a" and "t"?

I thought that LeGuin did a decent job of illustrating, in her
Earthsea Trilogy, what a magical naming language was and how it
would be idealized in a work or game of fantasy (the mythologiza-
tion of legends and stories which glorify the power of magick).

typically it seems that older or constructed languages are used
for 'words of power', often from a culture which the writer or
magician considers to be ancient and potent or reputed by hir
betters as the originators of magical power.
it is not the 'idea of a cat' which is dealt with in magick but
the very essence of catitude.  one uses the 'real name' of a
thing and is therefore able to control it.  this is why one of
the common choices for magical languages are those which underly,
linguistically, the present spoken language.  it communicates
awe and splendor in its relation to present-day word roots and
the Ancientes of Sivilizashun.

jake stratton-kent :
#  The magical link between the name and the named is likely more
# important than the particular language employed
#  - the point with English is not whether it IS magical, but how 
#    we can make it so -

languages of their own are not magical on the basis of their form
or structure but in relation to the magician.  just as a dagger 
is not a magical dagger until the magician wills it so, also is
the language not magical until it is discovered to be so by the
magician or 'made' to be this way through force of will.  the mage
may indeed have to do something to it in order that she feel that
it has become, finally, magical, but there are no set rules about
this and one language could be just as magical as another.  

the real question is how far AWAY from language can one go and
still call it 'a magical language'.  glossolalia seems an important
consideration.  it is the utterance of what we would otherwise
call 'nonsense syllables and sounds', even though the mystique
of the act and the ignorance of the listener may contrive to begin
belief that it is 'an ancient magikal langwidge' (the English-
speakers seem to like to believe their mumbling is Latin, Greek,
Hebrew or some other Biblical parlance).

religion and the texts of religions are often key to what language
passes for magical based on the associations made with gods and
the power for their rites.  thus in Euroamerican literati (perhaps
'Hermetic') tradition Hebrew and Latin have become favorites on
account of the popular Judeochristian religious heritage.

# why not the language of AL too? 

this can be done, but I think some of the problems involve the
typical intent to enter into a NONordinary experience while
contemplating or communicating in that 'power language'.  if
one is not changing one's tongue (and often engaging a SECRET
tongue known to the magician and hir sect) then how 'magical'
can it be in this sense?  it would take a powerful mage to be
able to achieve the same effects with the tongue of the commons.

I note that this seems to be an achievement of the village witch.
LOW magick may well be achieved with the common tongue, but when
one wishes to converse with the GODS, rather than just to speak
with animals, potions and utter spells of enchantment, then one
must begin to use the language of the Elders, the Ancestors, the
Otherworld, etc.  

this is why Enochian is somewhat of an innovation on the favored 
Hebrew of Judeochristian peoples -- it is constructed for the 
PURPOSES of such communication, rather than as a currency of 
communication by previous peoples.  these appear to be the two 
ways that power words are derived (cf. Austin Osman Spare on 
this point, who seems to have tried to take the science of 
power-word creation to new heights by demystifying it through 
psychological explanation -- chaos magicians have been using 
ancient technique without the mumbo-jumbo explanations 

# ...we should lay to rest what Umberto Eco calls 'the crusty 
# old myth of Hebrew as the original language'.

this is the way of most uncivilized tribes -- they consider themselves
to be 'the people', living in 'the land', (if they are scientific)
on 'the world', during 'the time', (if they are really aware) in
'the solar system', and speaking 'the language'.  

when they grow up a little they begin to realize that older is not
necessarily better and that human life is not unique to their
particular region, and that it may serve important psychomagical
needs to have completely-constructed communication and evaluative
systems at such a remove in time and/or space.

[wishes to remain anonymous:]
# The premise of gematria and of other forms of magic based on 
# the Hebrew alphabet is no longer credible; the universe is not 
# made up of Hebrew letters behind the scenes; 

with this I somewhat disagree.  the premise of any divination
system (be it tarot, astrology or gematria) is that it is a
tool which can be used to attune to the unconscious world,
to reflect using with forces and intelligences that have no 
direct connection otherwise to our waking minds.

people select what we feel works for us in regards a magical
language.  trying to make a One Powerlanguage Fits All rule is,
and this may be what you are talking about, ridiculous, though
the force behind such assertions in magical tradition provides
a kind of placebo effect that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

as for the Hebrew letters as cosmo-substrates, this is merely
an instance of a particular culture being blown out of proportion
as regards its value and cruciality.  ONE'S SPOKEN LANGUAGE is
of what our universe is created, since linguistic experience is
in large what inspires the emergence of self-consciousness and,
therefore, the awareness and 'substance' of the comparable world.

for those who spoke Hebrew this was a fact.  they mythologized
their experience into a metaphor of value, implying through the
understanding of translation the relationships amongst language,
psyche and the formation of self-/other-consciousness.

today we may or may not understand this but could select Hebrew
as a powerlanguage by virtue of its ascendance in tradition.  
in fact history and the repetition of human beings can make a
difference in the potency of an idea, tool, currency, or almost
any behavioral form.  toward what this LEADS may change, however,
depending on the relationship one has to the culture from which
the specific object or behavior is derived.  the CONTEXT, as it
changes, may also change the results of enactment, and this is
unfortunately seldom undestood.

it is largely for this reason that I have never adopted Hebrew as 
a powerlanguage and taken up music and a mish-mash of glossolalia
and foreign (often Sanskrit or Chinese) words as my reservoir 
from which to draw for my rites.  it seems to me that pre-literate 
peoples or those many who favored the usage of barely-known 
languages for their power-words usually interspersed a variety 
of their own projection and imaginative constructs, and I would 
like to more formally acknowledge that innovation in a manner 
not unlike Spare (though without what seems to me his occasional 
disrespect of or disconnection from previous cultures in the 
semblance of uniqueness and rebellion).

# and given this I wonder at the continued prevalence of these 
# methods in the ceremonial magic community. 

so do I.  I figure it is the penchance for traditional repetition
which drives magicians to select Hebrew.  it has been done, it
is an apparently important language to the Judeochristian religion
from which many of these people have come, and it is taught by
many of the early schwankers of the Correct Magical Methods that
it is the Only Powerlanguage.  so why not believe them?  the usual
ceremonial magician doesn't seem to exhibit rebellion very often,
from my limited exposure, and so tradition is merely accepted.

typically none of the mechanics or the processes which she is or
will be undergoing is understood for what they are.  this often
requires background of a more extensive measure than is brought
into the study of the Art (thus Crowley, who apparently had a
classical education, recommended broad-based education prior to
commencing serious study or practice of the magical enterprise).
coming to such an understanding, few are interested in doing
more than using the tools provided to them for their preferred
purposes.  innovation and imaginative reconstruction are simply
too difficult and uninviting for the run-of-the-mill ceremonial.
it takes a shamanic bent, a greater artistic flare and focus,
perhaps a rebellious and Satanic character (in short genius or
the 'office' of the Magus), to inspire major revolution in 
religio-magical procedures in any traditional setting. 

such genius inevitably results in sectarian disputes on the part
of those who are limited and restricted in their thought or
understanding.  it breaks the glamor of the One Perfect Path,
the Best Powerlanguage, the Most Powerful Tool or God, etc., 
and this is simply too much to be borne by the uneducated who
need such structure and simplicity to continue to develop.

# do people who no longer accept [the basis of Renaissance
# occultists] continue to employ a method that is dependent on 
# a discarded premise?

this happens all the time in a variety of contexts.  consider
the keyboard on which most of us are typing (the 'QWERTY').  it
was designed during a time when typing speeds were PROBLEMATIC
to the delicate machinery of manual typewriters.  the keys were
placed to as to sufficiently SLOW DOWN the typist, rather than 
maximize speed with the most common letters nearest the fingers.
the 'DVORJAK' keyboard apparently achieves this, and yet it is
hardly ever used in today's business or writing fields.

culture is a strange animal.  it institutes traditions for no
other reason than that they are functionally facilitated and
become hard-wired into the education process.  disentanglement
from this kind of habit-pattern can be very difficult indeed.
as many mages have suggested, habit-patterns are one of the 
most potent banes to real progress (personal and societal).

[also wishes to remain anonymous] disagrees with the wizard above:
# ...the universe can by definition be made up of Hebrew letters, 
# or any other set of letters or signs, or anything one wishes.

letters are not generally considered to be a substance, but are
more often understood to be patterns.  thus their category, other
than the above interpretation I have given regarding the innate
result of linguistic development, is not of a kind possible to
provide the structure of the cosmos except in metaphor.

# it might be that assuming that the universe is composed of Hebrew 
# letters is useful in a particular situation and useless in others.

usefulness doesn't provide truth, however.  it may be useful to
think that Sol rises and sets, that we remain stationary on a
flat earth.  that doesn't make it the One Correct Truth.

# might be found ...useful to see where one word's letters 
# match the numerical value of another's.

yes, as a divination system, which I addressed above.

# Second, I don't know that it is an essential tenet of Gematria 
# that the universe is made up of Hebrew letters, that the 
# practice of Gematria is dependent or based upon the premise given.

gematria is, in a universal sense, a means by which letters are
provided with enumeration for the purposes of valuative 
combination, comparison and contrast, tying together a numerical
quantity with a quality of significance suggested by the word(s)
constructed using those letters.

no premise is needed to effect this form of numerolinguistic
divination just as no premise is necessary to effect divinatory
results in tarot, I Ching (or other forms of bibliomancy), or
astrology (which is typically incorrectly understood, along
with gematria, as hard-copy mapbooks to the cosmos).

# From my understanding, Gematria requires only two assumptions:
# 1)  That individual letters possess or are associated with a numerical
# value, so that a numerical value for a given word or phrase can be
# determined;
# 2)  That words or, as the case may be, phrases of equal numerical value
# have a mystical relationship.
# (See further p. 2 of "Gematria" in 777.)

precisely put, thank you.

Michael L. Buxton:
#> ...the universe is not made up of Hebrew letters.  Please share
#> some literary reference to this postulation. 
John Everall :
# ...the "Sefer Yezirah"  seems fairly explicit with regard to this 
# particular idea: "Twenty-two foundation letters: He ordained them, 
# He hewed them, He combined them, He weighed them, He interchanged 
# them.  And He created with them the whole creation and everything 
# to be created in the future".  (II, 2 "The Book of Creation" ed. 
# Irving Friedman, Weiser, 1977)

an excellent example of a source which purports, to those who find
Hebrew to be a valuable powerlanguage, its relationship to their
world.  communication, self and society are all constructions 
that often seem to arise after the arrival of linguistics (esp.
in an individual), facilitated or as a result of this tool. 

it is no more relevant to the modern mage who understands these
principles than is any particular ancient technology used to
effect results which continues to be valuable today.  just because
a plow has been used for centuries, this doesn't mean that it
is necessarily the best means of tilling soil and planting
seeds, even while they are often used for precisely this purpose
today.  tradition has its value and its pitfalls.

for those who take the Sefer Yezirah as a mystical rule book
on par with the Talmudic or Toraic religious rule books,
this may be an important pointer toward their limitations.
for modern mages of a more liberated style, however, this is 
more of an HISTORICAL than a technical commentary.

blessed beast!
nigris (333) 
-- (emailed replies may be posted); 408/2-666-SLUG       FUCK

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