What is Gnosis?

Robert Fludd engravingMany religious or spiritual systems dealing with mystical experiences have a concept of gnosis. It is contrasted with rational knowledge in that it is based on a personal and usually profound experience, and is set apart from faith in that it doesn’t appeal to a sense of acceptance or emotional argument.1 Gnosis is a Greek word, γνῶσις, and while it translates as “knowledge,” it is not the only Greek word to do so. To understand what it means, it needs to be compared to two other words with similar meanings, epistēmē (ἐπιστήμη) and pistis (πίστις).

  1. Lachman, Gary. The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus: From Ancient Egypt to the Modern World. Floris Books, 2011. 23-7. 

The Emerald TabletThe most well-known saying from Hermeticism is the Hermetic axiom, “As above, so below.” This is a simplified version of a verse from the Emerald Tablet, which states:

That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.1

What does this enigmatic statement mean? It is an expression of an idea which is found across religions and spiritual traditions. It metaphorically explains the way that the microcosm, or the physical and spiritual world which we inhabit, mirrors the macrocosm, or the larger scope of the Cosmos and even God.

  1. From Isaac Newton’s translation of the Emerald Tablet, c. 1680. 

Emerald Tablet coverThe Emerald Tablet, or Tabula Smaragdina,1 is a pivotal and important piece of Hermetica whose influence is still felt today. Many modern esotericists and occultists still look to the Emerald Tablet for inspiration and meaning. This can be frustrating, for though the tablet is brief, it is confusing and cryptic.

  1. Does anybody else feel like “smaragdina” is a really unpleasant-looking word for a very beautiful substance? 

The Kybalion serves as an introduction to so-called Hermetic philosophy to many. However, after more study, it is clear that The Kybalion is not a book about Hermetic philosophy at all. It was published in the early 20th century and preaches a philosophy closer to that of the New Thought movement.

The Tarot Memory Deck

Working with Giordano Bruno’s memory alphabet and wheel system opens up interesting possibilities. I’ve written before about using tarot with the Art of Memory. Now let’s look at using the Taro with Bruno’s memory system. If you have used Tarot for meditation or pathworking, then you already have experience with visualizing the cards and also changing or manipulating the imagery. Using the cards in a memory system will imprint their symbolism even more firmly in your mind.

Giordano Bruno (the Nolan) was an influential philosopher, astrologer, and poet who was burned at the stake for heresy in 1600 C.E. He was a loud, brash, opinionated ex-monk who was not shy about his support of heliocentrism and his rejection of Christianity. He was also a genius. Bruno’s place in the history of Western civilization got a big upgrade in 1964, when Frances Yates published Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. That book was my first introduction to Bruno and his work.

Thoughts on Astrology

Since October of 2015, I have been reading cards at Pairings Portland’s monthly Astrology Night event. This has been a lot of fun and very interesting, but it has brought up a lot of questions about my thoughts on astrology. It’s been a popular form of divination for millenia, so that’s understandable. Just today, I was reminded of something I wrote about astrology about five years ago when asked about the inclusion of Ophiuchus as the 13th sign of the Zodiac.

When I first started this website, it’s because my weekly Tarot-reading gig at the Press Club was ending and I was eager to find some way to grow and continue my Tarot business. What I didn’t realize at the time was that my Friday afternoons at the Press Club were something special. They may never be replaced. My Tarot reading business never grew after that, but instead has settled into a fairly regular schedule. About once per month, I read cards at Pairings Portland. I also have a few regular customers and I get some jobs at parties here and there, but this is never going to be my main business nor keep me busy.

After coming to this realization, it was time to make a change in the direction of this website. I will be writing here about Hermeticism and the Tarot. Primarily, I will focus on Hermeticism and the Hermetic arts. I want to introduce you to the ars memorativa,1 theurgy, thaumaturgy, and their connection to the Tarot. For now, enjoy this video that might give you an idea of the subjects we will be exploring on this website.

  1. I usually call this the ars memoriae.