a cache of usenet and other text files pertaining
to occult, mystical, and spiritual subjects.


A *Friendly* Gematria Challenge

Subject: Re: A *Friendly* Gematria Challenge
Date: Thu, 23 May 1996 15:36:47 -0700 (PDT)

I thought I'd say a few last words about certain aspects of
magic, especially since the subject of the "validity" of
gematria and similar pursuits was raised a while back.

My overall point is that there is a philosophical (as opposed
to mythological or superstitious) understanding of these
things which has been a part of western esotericism for a
very long time; to illustrate that point, however, I'll make
a bit of a detour.  (For the distinction between philosophical
and mythological, see Plotinus' essay against the gnostics.)

Many years ago, when I taught university English composition 
classes, I used to do a unit on causality which involved working 
on identifying and describing causal relationships in convincing 

One of the things I used to teach was the Aristotelian scheme of 
four causes -- efficient, material, final and formal (when the 
class seemed especially acute I would sometimes throw in a fifth, 
for extra credit).  I used the familiar "triangle of combustion" 
to explain just how there could be four kinds of causes, because
it enabled me to point out in passing the veiling effect of the
almost universal modern tendency to explicitly recognize only one
kind of cause.

The "triangle of combustion" is a conceptual device used to teach
about fires and fire safety.  The idea is that three factors are
necessary for a fire to occur:  fuel, heat, and oxygen.  If any
one of them is removed, fire will not occur (or an existing
fire will cease).

This device can be used to illustrate the Aritsotelian types
of causation as follows.

The "efficient" cause (or "mechanical" cause) are the events or 
processes that lead to the effect in question:  the presence of 
fuel and oxygen, the increase in rate of oxidation caused by 
heat, and so on.

The "material" cause are the materials necessary -- for fire
to exist (fuel and oxygen).

The "final" cause is the end for which the fire has come into
existence -- to collect insurance money, perhaps, or to illustrate
a point in a fire safety class.  For organisms, or self-regulating
systems, the final cause is like the setting of a thermostat:  the
system creates fire so that the air will be warm enough for the
fire to be unnecessary.  (For organisms, the "final cause" is the
internal governance of the organism that draws it to come to fit
its proper form.)

The "formal" cause is the definition which the process of oxidation
must fit in order to be fire (and not, say, simply rapid oxidation).
In other words, one of the factors that causes a thing to be a chair
(and not a stool, couch or bench) is its congruence with the definition
or form of a chair.

I used to point out that the scheme of Aristotelian causation implied
the existence of a human observer (more clearly in the last two modes), 
and that, depending on the observer, one mode of causation would often
be salient, and the others treated as subordinate.  Thus, one way
to stop fires is to remove their necessary material basis (e.g., 
oily rags); another is to change the balance of rewards and punishments
(e.g., by changing arson and insurance laws).

One of the essay topics I often assigned was a discussion of the
causes of coincidences -- the point being that, in coincidence
(or synchronicity), the salient mode of causation is the formal
cause, the (implictly pre-existing) definition of the co-occurrence
of two events as significant.  (Events occur together [co-incide]
all the time:  only some rate as coincidences.)  But the co-occurrence
of these events "constellates" or "activates" that implicit
definition, brings it to the foreground.

If my telephone number contains my birthday, it's striking; 
if it contains someone else's birthday (as it surely does), 
it's not so interesting -- unless that someone is significant to me.

If my telephone number contains your birthday, and yours mine --
or say if Chris' contained Tyagi's, and Tyagi's Chris' -- then
a greater sense of significance would arise (for some people;
for others, the concurrence of these events would be quite 
meaningless, a simple statistical fluctuation).

Now, one of the core claims of the esoteric tradition is that the
cosmos is in some sense mind-like (for post-Cartesian esotericists,
various phenomenological maneuvers can produce a similar result).
Significance, and formal causation, are not accidents of a human
mind which is an epiphenomenon of the primary reality of brain 
processes, but are in certain ways part of, even constitutive of,
the nature of things.

Without an understanding of this claim, many of the core themes
of western esotericism (and of other esotericisms: the recognition
of cosmos as mindlike is a defining trait of esotericisms) can only
be misunderstood:  it is the key to a true understanding of what 
Swedenborg called correspondences, and what the neo-Platonists 
called Sympathy -- and without which astrology, gematria, divination,
tables of "yetizratic imagery", and so on, become, in the words
of Thomas Vaughan, "a petty trash of small conspiracies".

When Faust asked Mephistopheles how he could get out of Hell to come
talk to him, Mephistopheles made the famous answer, "Why, this is Hell,
nor am I out of it."  Anyone who supposes that this is a geographic
statement is missing the point as completely as someone who complains
that a pun (l'ame agit indeed!) or an isopsephism is just an accident.

These things are especially esoteric and obscure nowadays:  to
Swedenborg or Blake they were revelations; to Dante (and to
many others) they were the basis for their works, a basis that they
assumed would be understood by any educated reader.  Without the
understanding of the way in which the condition of the soul constitutes
the soul's world, the justification for the emblematic torments of the 
_Inferno_ is utterly lost.

The idea of the Sphere of Sensation as the true magic mirror may have
been formulated in those particular terms by the authors of the Golden
Dawn material; the idea itself, however, is an ancient one. A great 
deal that is peddled nowadays as great occult secrets,
or insights attainable after many years of effort, is available
quite at much less cost (at least, in money and time) through  studying
medieval and renaissance literature and hellenistic philosophy.

On the other hand, the cost in actual personal effort might be a bit

LeGrand Cinq-Mars

The Arcane Archive is copyright by the authors cited.
Send comments to the Arcane Archivist:

Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to the site maintainer for the creation and upkeep of this site.

The ARCANE ARCHIVE is a large domain,
organized into a number of sub-directories,
each dealing with a different branch of
religion, mysticism, occultism, or esoteric knowledge.
Here are the major ARCANE ARCHIVE directories you can visit:
interdisciplinary: geometry, natural proportion, ratio, archaeoastronomy
mysticism: enlightenment, self-realization, trance, meditation, consciousness
occultism: divination, hermeticism, amulets, sigils, magick, witchcraft, spells
religion: buddhism, christianity, hinduism, islam, judaism, taoism, wicca, voodoo
societies and fraternal orders: freemasonry, golden dawn, rosicrucians, etc.


There are thousands of web pages at the ARCANE ARCHIVE. You can use ATOMZ.COM
to search for a single word (like witchcraft, hoodoo, pagan, or magic) or an
exact phrase (like Kwan Yin, golden ratio, or book of shadows):

Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase


Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy, sacred architecture, and sacred geometry
Lucky Mojo Forum: practitioners answer queries on conjure; sponsored by the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
Herb Magic: illustrated descriptions of magic herbs with free spells, recipes, and an ordering option
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: ethical diviners and hoodoo spell-casters
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith, the Smallest Church in the World
Satan Service Org: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century ceremonial occultist
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective
The Mystic Tea Room: divination by reading tea-leaves, with a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, etc.
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
      Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races