Interview: With Asterion Mage

Asterion Mage is a very talented artist and Renaissance magician, who currently resides in Romania. He is also by his words: “a student and teacher of the occult, specialized in traditional ceremonial magic. Very interested in talismans, amulets, evocation, demonology, angelology, Qabbalah, seals and sigils, alchemy and the like.” What attracted me to his work was this dazzling seal called the Seven Heavens published in the most recent issue of Platonism at the JWMT, which in my own estimation, naturally corresponds to the “Seven Heavens of Chaos” along with the Seven Angels or Archons in Gnostic cosmology. And naturally, I extended an invitation to Asterion to be interviewed. Be sure to visit both of his blogs: Practical Solomonic Magic and Asterion’s Occult Art for more information about his work. His artwork alone is worth every penny and second of your attention. On with the interview!

Asterion Mage

When did you first start your journey into Renaissance and Solomonic magic?

I have been interested in magic since I was a child, at about 9 or 10, but my reading into this subject and other familiar ones began at about age 13. My maternal aunt was deeply interested in the occult and practiced certain rituals taken from a multitude of books, and later on those books fell into my hands. For a very young man interested in magic they were priceless, but looking back on them now they were merely occult-themed almanacs of superstition and astrology and traditions, when they were not bombastic booklets promising wealth, love and power through the practice of simple rituals with salt, honey or candles. Bit by bit, I started reading everything I could find, collecting newspaper clippings and books and pieces of information from TV shows.

Later on, the internet made its way into my life, but I didn’t have my own PC or an internet connection. I would spend what little money I had on hours in the internet cafe, reading and downloading information from all kinds of websites. Another source of fascination was my maternal grandmother, who lived with us and who basically raised me. A very kind old woman, with a heart of gold and very humble manners, she would recite on rare occasions a chant against the evil eye when I was sick.  She refused to tell it to me, as it was customary, but I could remember it because she mumbled it a lot and it rhymed.

Far before I would read about evocation and the summoning of spirits, she told me something that I would only later realize what was. She had a hard life, with many brothers and sisters, her mother died and her father remarried. The woman he remarried was a witch. And I don t mean small, petty spells or superstitions. She told me a story that her stepmother was known for “pulling out the devil from the water”. She always referred to the devil as the “Unclean One” and to demons as “Killers”, as was her country dialect. She told me her stepmother would go at night to watery places like rivers or lake or ponds, and take a branch or rod and strike the water while chanting. Then a killer (demon) would show up and ask her what she wanted. Then she would strike him and the water and say: “Not you, the one above you!” and he would submerge and soon a bigger one would come.

And she would do the same until the biggest demon would come and then ask for what she wanted. She never practiced this as she thought her stepmother had sold her soul to the Devil or something similar. She was quite a pious woman that made me love prayer and God since I was a child, but by example, not by inducing it to me or forcing it down my throat.

Magical Circle

You say you were baptized as an Eastern Orthodox Christian. How do you reconcile your Christianity with your practices since modern Christianity has a tendency to shun magic and the occult as simply vices of the Devil?

Well, that’s an easy one. I call myself a mage, since it’s the most accurate description of what I consider myself to be and profess. I’m not a sorcerer or a warlock because these terms often have negative components to them, and I’m not a magician either in that sense that people expect me to do magic in front of them and dazzle when they hear that term. When I’m asked this question by people, I always remember to tell them that among the first people to worship Christ in Bethlehem were, according to the story in Matthew, the three Magi from the East. They certainly were not evil necromancers that were meant to be stoned in the Old Law, and even if they were, they were pretty decent for necromancers. The magic I practice is deeply rooted in faith, as many traditions are. Without one’s faith in the central being or concept of one’s cosmology, little is accomplished in magic in any tradition.

Yes, from a priest’s point of view, magic is wrong. But then again, a lot of what priests do is wrong from a moral point of view, so I cannot listen to the fixed ideology of somebody that practices against his teaching. I prefer to practice magic like my faith: quietly and devoutly. People often huff and puff at the mere mentioning of Christian teachings, but we have to keep in mind that the vast majority of what we have today in grimoiric magic was penned down not only by Christian magicians, but also priests. We are not talking about wizards in strange hats sacrificing goats, but priests dressed in white garments that as soon as were free of their priestly duties would immerse themselves in ancient wisdom, forbidden books and illicit experiments, blessing and aspiring in the name of God all the way.

How would you differentiate your work from other magical avenues located in Thelema, Wicca, chaos magic and even the highly influential Golden Dawn system?

At one point in my magical career, I was quite eclectic and believe solidly in my eclectic rites. That was what convinced me that some methods work and some are just BS and fluff.  Although I believed with all my might in the seals I was constructing and in the visualization trances I went into, the results were either null or inferior. And all exercises done after the Old Fashion, described in grimoires, or experiments composed by myself using those analogies, work perfectly. I know that each current has its own ideals and adherents and it is not for me to judge them, as it is not for them to judge mine. I have seen way to many Wiccans and Thelemites bashing Christianity without reading a single verse of the Gospels. I really would not like to bash their faiths, although I have read theirs. At the same time, I have also seen Christians preaching the superiority of our faith without having read the Gospels as well, so there are bad apples in every batch.

Wicca is a new religion claiming to be old and I dislike that about it, but I like the fact it teaches respect for one another and living things. Thelema is an equally new religion that advocates the use of one’s true will and the importance of love, a thing I most definitely enjoy, but it has become an excuse for doing whatever the hell you want, in contrast with what Crowley actually meant.

Each of these faiths is good for its adherents as Orthodox Christianity is for me, and I would not dare to say otherwise or try to bring people to my truth.  Chaos magic is for me a very interesting experiment in which 99% of the young occult community practices and even teaches and less than 1% actually obtain results. Golden Dawn is in my view a great tool of learning and a great initiatory system, but I believe in using its rituals only if one commits to that path. Doing LBPR’s and SIRP’s along other rituals and not studying through the grades materials or going through the actual initiations seems very idiotic to me—however strongly others might disagree.  I am not an adept of this particular order and I prefer the Old School magical tradition of the grimoires: you do not need to mix Wicca, Thelema and Golden Dawn in to obtain great results, just go back to their origins. If you study these honestly you will find that their source is good-old medieval European Solomonic Magic.


How would you describe your work in theurgy and Solomonic magic in relationship to Gnosticism and Gnostic cosmology? Do they bear any similarities to the magical systems of the ancient Gnostics and Hermeticists?

This is the question that would require me to go in an academic dispute and ramble on for a few hundred pages. For the sake of our readers, I believe I should not be encouraged. Gnosticism is a very broad term that defines a whole class of heterodox views upon religion and spirituality in the first half of the first millennium primarily, with echoes well beyond that.  I know full well that magic manuals of the Middle Ages are heavily indebted to such works as Sefer ha-Razim, Shiur Qomah and the Heikhaloth literature, they in turn having Gnostic roots, but that would not be adopting Gnostic ideals directly, only incorporating the operating system of the rituals employed and acknowledging their roots. I am aware of the many Gnostic faiths and beliefs but I honestly cannot say I was particularly influenced by one.  In my youth, I could say I was taught in the Neo-Gnostic spirit of Rosicrucianism, Theosophy and Anthroposophy, but that was accomplished with so much bias by one of my teachers that I later became stupefied of how much I was being indoctrinated with pseudo-Gnosticism and New Age and how little I actually learned.

I am, after my own assertion, an orthodox Christian, but an orthodox priest would find me a heretic or a Gnostic. I love the Orthodox Ritual, the humbleness and the light of the monks and saints of our church, the smell of frankincense rising from the brazier in an old church filled up to the ceiling in century-old paintings and I love the uplifting chants and psalms echoing in a chorus. However, I almost always pray to God in private, with honesty and humility, not at Church. I also do believe in reincarnation and the evolution of the soul, which is not only a Buddhist/Eastern ideas, but also found in Gnostic and Kabbalistic thought. I also do not wish to be married and start a family like most people in our faith do and last but not least, I practice magic.

If the claims of the Goetia and other medieval grimoires are true, then the spirits should manifest to physical appearance. Has your personal experience in invocation allowed this to happen?

First of all, I have never worked with the spirits of the Goetia, and I hope there will never be a need to. There are some grimoires that use the same equipment as Goetia, like its sister book, Theurgia-Goetia, grimoires that have many things in common and being used as complementary, like the Fourth book and the Heptameron and some isolated spirits that can be compelled with the same rituals, without using the spirits listed in the Goetia itself. I have worked with other spirits, and the matter has been debated quite a few times. The spirits do not always become visible, unless they are conjured to do so.

When the conjuration clearly states that the spirit is to come visibly, and it does not, I consider it a failed evocation. I have had failed evocations as well as successful ones, and yes, when it is meant that they are to be visible, we are not talking about opening your astral senses or training your third eye. Those are crutches on which I relied myself and now I am sorry there was no one to correct me but only people that encouraged me in my self-delusions. In my eclectic magic years, I was encouraged to believe that every little sign and omen was true and significant and that I only had to believe that my magic worked in order for it to work. This is highly hazardous for any beginning magician and even if I’m often contradicted, blamed and fired upon in public forums for bringing people down to Earth, I feel it’s necessary. If everything happens as the conjuration of the spirit states, the evocation is a success. No amount of explaining and philosophizing about small signs in the room and furniture cracking can make a failed attempt a successful one.

One essential component that the medieval grimoires are unanimous on is sexual purity. And I know for a fact that the majority of modern would-be magicians do not make any attempts to remain celibate. Because celibacy, according to the grimoires, is a prerequisite to command the spirits. You can’t render them obedient unless you’re free from sexual contact. Modern magicians say that’s just medieval Catholic superstition, but considering that none of them seem to get any visible effects from their magic, how would they know? Any comments on this?

Sexual abstinence is a prerequisite in sacred rites throughout the world; it is not a Catholic superstition. I find this to be quite true. Since the grimoires actually state that you shall abstain from sexual relations for three or nine days prior to some operations, we can obviously conclude that the magician was not asked to be celibate his whole life. Some were priests, other were married noblemen, others were ladies men like the famous Casanova, which possessed a number of magical manuscripts and even attempted a ritual, and a great number were small scholars, artists, magistrates and other professions that were quite active sexually, married or not.

Abstinence and fasting does indeed make the conjurer more in tune with the celestial worlds and renders him more powerful in a magical sense. Since sexuality is perceived as part of man’s animalistic nature and the sublimation of our instincts is perceived as a triumph over that very nature—this is quite natural to be asked of the magician. Also bear in mind that from the Sirian sorcerers to the Renaissance magus, children were often employed as seers because they were sexually inactive and thus pure, making it easier for them to interact with the spirits.  I myself am a very sexual individual and have a healthy, diverse and fulfilling sex-life, but when dealing with magic the situation changes: I avoid all sex acts prior to the operations, including divination, I bathe ritually and after having sex I do not touch my ritual implements for at least 24 hours, if not more.


What are your thoughts on the Faustus legends? Do you think stories like Faustus are propaganda to deter the poor and the downtrodden from attempting to usurp the status quo?

Last time I checked, Faust was not that poor, but then again, magic has been successfully employed by kings and poor people and has many times failed both poor people and kings. The root of the Faust legend would most likely be Georgius Sabellicus or Georg Sabel, of which the good Abbe Trithemius writes in disapproving words. But he was not the only case. If you read stories from the Church Fathers and other Christian traditions, you would find an abundance of unknown Faust’s. Saint Basil, one of the most revered saints of the Orthodox Church, is known to have saved and rescued from the demon’s grasp a young slave who sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for the love of a young Christian girl. Saint Cyprian was a famous sorcerer until his conversion, and according to legend he sat in the demon’s council and was revered by them as a friend, and so is the case with Pope Sylvester II, to mention but a few. These were maybe propaganda, but the truth is that many books of magic are strictly demonic and prescribe rituals where birds are sacrificed to demons and where people make binding contract with the heads of the netherworld, so the story I believe is very likely to be inspired by real events.


This leads into my next question—do you think Simon Magus is an influential figure in the murky world of magic and the occult? I ask this, because the Faustus legends are modeled after Simon Magus.

Unlikely so, in my opinion. There have been so many magicians in history with similar traits that it s impossible to put our finger only on Simon. Upon reading The Lives of Saints it became quite clear to me that this was just part of a traditional debate: the cliché is the story of conversion. Saint A deals with the magician B, he upstages his illusions and trickery and upon that the magician either dies (like Simon) or converts to Christianity (like the wizard Theonas). The story of the magical battle between pagan sorcerers and the men of God, such as the case with Simon the Magus and Simon the Christian (Peter) in the Book of Acts, also appears in Exodus, when Moses amazes Pharaoh, the people and even himself facing the two Egyptian sorcerers, whom the apocryphal tradition calls Yannes and Mamres. This is out of the need to prove Christianity superior to the forces of magic, in most cases based upon the works of demons.

Jesus himself was thought to be a magician using the help of the demon Beelzebub, according the Jewish priests of his time. We can ascertain that his miracles were not that miraculous for the crowds at the time, only the fact that he did not employ demonic enchantments and charge money.  The most influential figure in the occult tradition would be King Solomon, as he has over one hundred manuscripts of pseudo-epigrahic works of magic attributed to him, while our dear Samaritan heresiarch has none. Even his magnum opus and corner stone of the Simonians, the Apophasis Megale, remains unknown save for a few fragments quoted by the Church Fathers.

There is a part in Marlowe’s Faust where Faust asks Mephistopheles how it is possible that a demon can manifest itself on earth, since demons have been condemned to hell, and Mephistopheles explains that earth is merely an extension of hell. This somewhat ties into how some (not all) ancient Gnostics and early Christian heretics (the Encratites, especially—which aren’t exactly “Gnostic” anyway) viewed material life as at best—corruptible and flawed—at worst: a hellish prison for the divine spark. What’s your opinion on this?

Well, I’m not that gloomy when it comes to viewing the world. The Christian story holds that the demons were let loose to test man until Judgment Day, so nothing wrong with that here. In the Book of Job, Satan acts as a divine agent of testing the faithful, much like he does in the temptation of Christ in the Gospel. Earth is an extension of Hell as much as Heaven is an extension of the same. I do not believe in strict delineations between metaphysical topoi. I do not trust strict boundaries between the Fifth Heaven and Sixth Heaven, between Hell and the Abyss and between Earth and the Kingdom of God. It would be like arguing what we breathe: oxygen, nitrogen or carbon dioxide? The air we breathe is composed of all three gases, but we choose to concentrate on the oxygen. Our body cannot filter out the other two, and cannot breathe just one of them, it s the inseparable nature of the mixed air we breathe.

There are actually two versions of Marlow’s Faust. The earlier version was modified because it was considered too fatalistic and had a lot of crypto-gnostic underpinnings. In the earlier draft, it’s ambiguous whether Faust really has a choice in salvation or damnation, thus portraying Faust and the devil in a somewhat sympathetic light. In the modified version, it’s made clear that Faust chooses damnation for himself and is therefore justified in being condemned to hell. My question from this is, is there such thing as pre-determinism and fate or does humanity have the free will to forge their own destinies?

About the first draft of Marlowe’s Faust—I must admit I am ignorant and cannot comment upon it. Many people choose to comment things they read nothing about and just end up confusing the discussion partner or making fools of themselves, I prefer admitting my ignorance in these matters. Predetermined destinies are a thing to be thought of, but we cannot pass judgment on a thing like this while being under the spell of the physical realm. I find that we have a destiny and free will at the same time, but each has a different amount of them. There are people who by their own actions strive and purify themselves to the level of choosing their own destiny and people that slave away in this life content with their bliss and destiny. I recently became stupefied by the power of one’s predestination: five or six years ago I predicted a very harmful disease to a woman in a birth chart at the age of 62, and should she survive it she would live up to her mid 70’s. Her daughter phoned me a few months ago and told me her sickness kicked in, specifically cancer. The suffering was very acute and within a month or two she passed away, at age 62. I believe that this was not a coincidence or an active suggestion of mine. If I could do that I’d be hired by every government to kill people with my natal charts.

I have to ask—what’s your opinion of Aleister Crowley and his mystic system of Thelema and even modern Thelemites in general? Is he in your estimation, truly a Satanist? And does he bear any influence on you and your work?

To call Crowley a Satanist is to call the Pope a pedophile: if you are an ignorant superficial individual that relies on gossip and conspiracy theories to base his statements upon, then of course, that’s fine and dandy, but no self-respecting student of the occult would consider him a Satanist. I’m personally neutral when it comes to Crowley. Not a big fan but not an opponent either. I find some works of his to be quite useful and insightful, but if I were to take up study of all his books and decipher all his metaphors, I’d have to quit my job and do just that for about two years. He’s a colorful individual, and his grasp on the Kabbala was superior to Eliphas Levi and Gerard Encausse dit Papus. He was admirable in many ways (his knowledge of the Bible, chess playing  abilities and yogic inclinations) and a bad example in many ways (drugs, manipulation, financial dependability, et alia).

I do not want to get into endless arguments with Thelemites as to how great and original and daring Crowley was nor do I wish to engage in his apology with Christian fundamentalists that consider him a Satanist or the Antichrist. I have done that so many times that I am honestly sick of it, like trying to explain gravity to a child that constantly asks the same question. He had good and bad things and I am not that fascinated with him. Franz Bardon, Wilhelm Quintscher, Omraam Aivanhov and Cagliostro were equally important and insightful, but I do not push them down anybody’s throat.

What are you favorite occult-themed films/movies and why?

Oh, yes. I enjoy movies and series just like your average Joe, but when you throw in the occult in the mix, it gets that much better. My favorite is Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate. It has old books and demonology, two of my favorite things in the whole world, wrapped into one detective story. What s not to like? Some other titles include: The Exorcist, The Rite, Eyes Wide Shut, Devil’s Advocate, Angel Heart, and even awkward or goofy things like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Season of the Witch. I love to see how much research was put into each one and how much BS is left. A good occult series would be Supernatural, but it has one major drawback: a lot of people think it’s all real and argue with me about devil traps and fictitious demons. It’s well researched and introduces a few accurate things, like a few demons and angels, seals and especially the use of the Enochian chants, but it is very creative in its fictional account, nonetheless.


What is your advice to those who are new to your system of magic and are interested in practicing with it? What are the ultimate benefits to practicing magic?

I would not encourage anyone to take up study of magic. Saying anyone can do magic is as correct as saying anyone can do nuclear fusion. I say anyone, not everyone. There’s a difference. Anyone can do magic means that the few people who can actually obtain great results can come from any part of the world, from  any social, cultural and religious background and with any motivation, not every single Joe and Jane can pick up a spell book and work wonders with no prior effort. I took up magic because I had an innate need of it and a fascination that was awakened in me from my early childhood, much like my love of God.

It was not taught to me; I was not guided and indoctrinated. Without a born fascination for this, one merely relies on the fact that it’s fascinating or useful. The first category often gives up when they see just how much study and actual work goes into it, and the other category gives up when they put as little effort as possible and expect as much power and great results, and do not obtain them. Magic would be like driving a car: people see Fast and Furious and want that, and they jump behind the wheel, not knowing anything about driving, about roads, rules or mechanics, and when they find out that you have to learn all that and after that, you can t exactly fly around in mafia chases all over town, they get discouraged.

Magic is not for people that think it’s cool. I would urge people like that to take up any other hobby that is much more rewording when it comes to impressing people, like break-dancing, Kung-fu or bodybuilding. Or who knows a combination of all three! Also, if you know you have a low attention span and get bored with things quickly, this is the least fit thing to learn. It took me over 14 years of avid daily study to get to where I am today, and when I think of how much I still have to learn and do, I’m half afraid and half exhilarated! However, if some are truly inclined to study Solomonic magic, I only have two words of advice.

One: Study more than you are studying now, ignorance and laziness has no place in serious magic. And two: Ask first, and then do. Do not jump into practice before having the whole operation under the belt. Its way easier to learn how to do something good then ask someone to fix what you broke. I’m so often faced with people who ask for my advice and when granted, they ignore it, and ask me to fix their problems after making them worst, that if they only follow this advice, I’ll consider myself a happy man.

Yes, you must try things, yes, you must experiment, but do not jump into practice with enthusiasm and ignorance all at once. Think of magic as a garden or a forest full of fruits berries: before putting everything brightly-colored and fancy-looking in your mouth, try asking someone who knows his stuff. Poisoned berries and mushrooms can be the most fascinating fruits there, while nutritious roots, leaves and fruits can hide under more humble guises.

Gnosis Alive!

“For he who has not known himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself has at the same time achieved knowledge about the depth of the all.” – Book of Thomas the Contender.

“Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is within you that makes everything his own and says ‘My god, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body.’ Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate. Learn how it happens that one watches without willing, rests without willing, loves without willing. If you carefully investigate these matters you will find him within yourself.” (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 8.15.1f.)

“Then lights, which are the means of Gnosis were given him, and he was given authority over all the secrets, so that he might distribute them to those who had striven.”  – The Book of the Gnosis of Light.

Alright, I goofed up as my last entry wasn’t exactly my best. It was more of a gusty, spontaneous reaction against the collective irrational reaction over the recent court verdict. But forget about current events that have no bearing on our lives for a moment and let’s get back to the reason why I created this blog in the first place, shall we?


Knowledge in the ancient world was hotly debated, received and processed in different contexts. To Socrates, the most essential duty to one’s self was self-knowledge. This was brought out through radical inquiry, or the “Socratic method” that is a staple practice in practically every law school. The ancient oracle of Apollo, at Delphi, had the aphorism of “KNOW THYSELF” inscribed above the gateway. This axiom sounds deceptively simple, yet when faced with all the implications, it becomes a complex and difficult en-devour to internalize into inner-truths. Without this knowing, we are left wallowing, half-buried in our own ignorance, mistaking our thoughts and subjective consciousness as an objective and absolute truth. It is this self-deception the ancient philosophers reviled and helped dispel by honest interaction and dialogue.  The only correct starting point for true knowledge is to admit one’s own ignorance: “The only thing I know is that I don’t know.” By starting at this point, a more honest position of limitations is acknowledged and appreciated in efforts to avoid whatever exceeds those boundaries.

Socrates’ student Plato defined knowledge or “epistemology” as deep metaphysical truth or an innate quality belonging to the immortal soul belonging to the “world of ideas”. When something is learned, it is in actuality “recalled” also known as “anamnesis”. This type of knowledge is certain and mere opinion or belief which is subject the impermanent world of appearances and sensation. Belief that happens to be true because of sheer luck does not qualify as knowledge. It is more often than not that beliefs are lacking in truth and a held in the bondage of falsehood. Knowledge was seen as a kind of “food for the soul”, the fuel towards even deeper shades of gnosis. Each time a person incarnates, this innate knowledge is forgotten at the shock of birth. Both Socrates and Plato saw themselves more as midwives rather than teachers since knowledge was already present deep within the soul’s pneuma (Greek for “spirit”) of the student, aiding along the innate knowledge to be given birth. Plato defines knowledge in this manner:

“This knowledge is not something that can be put into words like other sciences; but after long-continued intercourse between teacher and pupil, in joint pursuit of the subject, suddenly, like light flashing forth when a fire is kindled, it is born in the soul and straightway nourishes itself.” Seventh Letter, §341c.

For Plato philosophical understanding was something very similar to seeing, though a seeing not with the physical eye but with the soul. This soul or “Nous”, or the higher mind, (the “mind’s eye” or “third eye”) becomes the seat of the intellectual cultivation of truth. This reflection of the Divine Mind contained within the immortal soul or nous becomes the beholder of reality. Truth is seen as the essential means to reveal meaning and the purpose of life. It is also seen as the means to dispel falsehood and delusion. Searching for truth by the means of the intellect or the physical body will almost always inevitably lead to impasse and disappointment due to the fact the human creature is limited to the five senses of the physical world. True knowledge, however, is not inhibited by the level of corruption and death since it has an eternal character that is active, real and living. It must be an objective, substantial reality uninhibited by deception rather than a vague, abstract idea. Nietzsche, on the other hand would come along and repudiate the very idea of an “objective truth”, maintaining that the truth was entirely subjective to one’s own delusions. This view is in a way self-defeating.

Without seeing first-hand, the burning embers of truth, man is relegated to become troglodytes within Plato’s Cave. These troglodytes live unexamined lives and are self-enslaved by chosen ignorance or myopia by mistaking the shadows and darkness as objective reality due to the fiery embers (representing truth) behind them in which they are unable to see but cast shadowy reflections upon the rocky walls. If the prisoner is dragged out from the cave and into the light of the sun, he would finally confront the world as it really is. On return to the shadows of the cave, the liberated prisoner would attempt to share his new found knowledge only to be met with scorn and laughter. It is not that reality in itself is illusory but our perceptions of it are subject to delusion.

In eastern mysticism, the search for self-knowledge is treated with equal if not more-so importance. The Buddha taught self-awareness in his doctrine contained within the Buddha sutras and the dhrama or “way” to enlightenment which is defined as the means to end suffering or ignorance. Suffering is induced by to the false sense of “self” and its attachments to objects and desires which are also subject to transitory nature of reality. In the Heart Sutra, the Buddha explains this phenomenal self is actually made up of five “heaps” or ever-changing qualities called “skandhas” that includes: form, sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness. This persona isn’t an integral and autonomous entity. While this view is seemingly nihilistic, it however offers an allowance to shed the lesser identification of both body and mind and into the higher depths of the spirit in its ineffable adobe.

However, beyond this egoic by-product of the “heaps” exists another “observer” which is sometimes called the “unborn, undying mind” that exists in a deathless state of pure awareness beyond mere sensation or thought which is subject to the irrational passions. It is this divine substance that makes up the numinous self or in Hindu terms, the “atman”. In the Upanishads, the atman is described as being found in the secret cave of the spiritual heart. It is the non-emergent presence that exists from the start and supreme foundation of each individual. This atman is also called the “Buddha” or “I AM” nature which is present in the here and now rather than in some remote, unknown dimension in the cosmos.  Adi Shankaracharya, in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita proclaims: “Self-knowledge alone eradicates misery”. “Self-knowledge alone is the means to the highest bliss.” “Absolute perfection is the consummation of Self-knowledge.” Ramana  Maharashi maintains similar sentiments with the “I” consciousness and the “Supreme Self”. This present, eternal character is defined in The Unborn: The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei: 

“Since the physical body is something that was born and is composed of the elements of earth, water fire, and air brought temporarily together, according to the principle that what is born cannot avoid perishing, it, too, must one day perish. But the Buddha-mind is unborn; the body may be burned with fire or decompose through interment, but the Buddha-mind cannot. The unborn Buddha-mind simply makes the born body its temporary home. While it resides there, it is free to hear, see, smell, and so forth. But when the body perishes and it loses its dwelling place, it can no longer do those things. It’s as simple as that. The body, being created, has a birth and a death, but the mind, which is originally the unborn Buddha-mind, does not. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? It’s the same as Shakyamuni’s death or nirvana: ne is the unborn, and han is the undying mind. Both point to the Unborn.” (91)

This is comparable to Plato’s doctrine of self-knowledge or more accurately self-remembrance. It is not that the Buddha achieved enlightenment, but rather the Buddha realized he was enlightened the whole time. Not knowing this “Buddha-nature” only reveals one thing: that you live in ignorance. However, one can very well lead a life of happiness and be perfectly fine without undergoing the “way” to “enlightenment”. Undergoing such a path remains more of an innate “calling” rather than a spiritual fascist-like mandate for all to follow. In fact, it isn’t even good to attempt to dispel anyone’s ideological falsehoods. As Jeremy Puma over at Dharma Gnosis asserts, “This Way is for those who are called to it, not for those who do just fine without it. Once called, there is no return, but not everyone needs the journey. It’s available to everyone, but not everyone who is offered need accept. The importance is deciding this not for other people, but for yourself.”

The world-famous teacher and guru Krishnamurti who would eventually break away from the occult world of Theosophy had also this to say about self-knowledge in The First and Last Freedom:

“…the transformation of the world is brought about by the transformation of oneself, because the self is the product and a part of the total process of human existence. To transform oneself, self- knowledge is essential; without knowing what you are, there is no basis for right thought, and without knowing yourself there cannot be transformation. One must know oneself as one is, not as one wishes to be which is merely an ideal and therefore fictitious, unreal; it is only that which is that can be transformed, not that which you wish to be. To know oneself as one is requires an extraordinary alertness of mind, because what is is constantly undergoing transformation, change, and to follow it swiftly the mind must not be tethered to any particular dogma or belief, to any particular pattern of action.”

In Gnosticism, knowledge in their religious context was peculiar. It wasn’t a subjective or personal “mystical ecstasies or experience” or a “I’m divine so all is one and groovy” that is achieved by the means of self-practice or ritual. Rather, it was a revelatory transmission of information that one receives like a cell-phone tower in order to piece together the existential predicament and the means to interpret knowledge and theology in the most profound and often perhaps a transgressive, discordant sort of way. Exploring the world of the Gnostics is a bewildering exercise. Digging deep into their doctrines results in a kind of intellectual vertigo. All those names, all those claims. One is quickly overpowered by a desire to find some kind of objective reality, some concrete fact that one can hang on to. Second to fourth-century Mesopotamians inhabited a very strange time indeed, one in which a grasp on reality seemed to have totally slipped. They looked out on the world and where the vast majority of people see reality, they—like the Hindu and Buddhist sages of India—saw only illusion and confusion. To their way of thinking, the mass of ignorant humanity is utterly deceived in accepting the logic of rationality and the evidence of its senses. A glimpse of the underlying true nature is granted to a select few by the divine powers. This glimpse was the Gnosis, the Knowledge, and those to whom it had been granted were Gnostics.

This knowledge reveals that it is the means to enable the solar nature, the spiritual seed within, that shard of the infinite to be somehow liberated and find its way home out from the fetters of matter and darkness of empty being. This gnosis is esoteric in character and full of hidden secrets. Yet, not all esotericism is Gnostic. It is available to anyone and everyone provided that they undergo procedural initiation. The Gnostics are in essence a spiritual race of people or the pneumatikoi who have awakened to their real divine nature through gnosis. The other kinds of people (as well as the differentiated layers of self) include the psychikoi or psychics, who straddle the fence between the material and spiritual worlds, whose soul-nature may be guided by faith, but who will still need exceptional effort to gain enlightenment. And lastly, the hylikoi or hylics whose awareness was severely limited to the matters concerning the physical world. From a spiritual point of view, the hylics are essentially already dead. (Hence the caustic words of Jesus Christ in Luke 9:60: “Let the dead bury their dead.”)

Yet, the so-called “mystical experience of oneness and unity” that appears in more modern definitions of “gnosis” is in essence, a pipe-dream. At times, it seems if at all this sort of knowledge was necessary for spiritual salvation in this looking-glass world was to be able, like Alice in Wonderland’s Red Queen, to believe six impossible things before breakfast.


Yet this is exactly the kind of attitude a highly esoteric and fragmentary text called Allogenes (Greek for “Stranger”) asserts in the strongest terms as revelatory information told in paradox:

“And I saw holy powers by means of the Luminaries of the virginal male Barbelo telling me that I would be able to test what happens in the world: “O Allogenes, behold your blessedness, how it silently abides, by which you know your proper self and, seeking yourself, withdraw to the Vitality that you will see moving. And although it is impossible for you to stand, fear nothing; but if you wish to stand, withdraw to the Existence, and you will find it standing and at rest after the likeness of the One who is truly at rest and (who) embraces all these silently and inactively. And when you receive a revelation of him by means of a primary revelation of the Unknown One – the One whom if you should know him, be ignorant of him – and you become afraid in that place, withdraw to the rear because of the activities. And when you become perfect in that place, still yourself. And in accordance with the pattern that indwells you, know likewise that it is this way in all such (matters) after this pattern. And do not further dissipate, so that you may be able to stand, and do not desire to be active, lest you fall in any way from the inactivity in you of the Unknown One. Do not know him, for it is impossible; but if by means of an enlightened thought you should know him, be ignorant of him.”

Yeah, that’s right, you heard Allogenes! According to this and many other Gnostic texts (others being the Apocryphon of John), seeking the ineffable on your own merits is but a fool’s errand. Digging deep within yourself is all fine and dandy, but until Grace grabs you by the hairs, and reveals personally to you what gnosis really is through mediation between you and a higher agency, you’re on your own buddy. In essence, this Apophatic God is only “known” through not knowing him, without reason or the intellect. The Supreme is only “known” by the vessel of an empty mind rather than a mind full of thought and emotion. It’s almost a call to radical agnosticism.

In Orthodox Christianity, the is also an indwelling spirit of Christ’s light “within” to bring about the internal Kingdom of God, although it’s rather specific to baptized Christians. Then we have this saying from the New Testament:

“Therefore leaving the elementary principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us move unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works (the Law), and of faith toward God; of the doctrine of baptisms, and laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment…” (Hebrews 5:14–6)

In other words, true Christianity is at is essence, spiritual maturity (in the light of Christ that is) rather than being compliant to all the numerous doctrines and dogmas that come with it. It is the “initiated” Christians that discover the true doctrine of Jesus Christ by the means of the straight gate and narrow way for regeneration.  The spiritual baptism is conferred over the believer by the means of being “reborn of water and spirit” (John 3:5). The person’s soul is made a new and altered to reflect the image of God, in a kind of theosis. When the author of John speaks of consuming divinized flesh, it isn’t necessarily a reference to cannibalism or vampirism (although it’s pretty easy to assume this). Like the parable where Christ divides and multiplies fish and bread to the multitudes, Christ distributes the knowledge, the living information by the means to realize eternal life. Hence, you are what you eat. The sci-fi author Philip K. Dick was all over this subject. And let’s not forget Jung’s influential ideas of individuation (after all, it was he who posited the symbol of  the crucified Christ as a powerful symbol of the Self in terms of alchemy and transformation). And many other western philosopher’s take on this slippery subject that is the Self.

Personally, I feel like there is some aspect of me that is unattached to the world of forms. Sometimes, I really do feel like I have a body as opposed to the feeling I am my body. The problem is however that 95-99% of my reality is occupied with concerns of the flesh and all its distractions (eating, sleeping, bathroom breaks, exercising, feeling horny, movies, TV, video-games, etc). One step further, this applies to not only me but the rest of everyone else. No-one really likes pain, but really let’s think on how our daily routines are foremost concerned with: money. “Will I have enough money to pay my bills?” “Will I get fired at the end of the day?” “Will I be foreclosed on?” “How will my credit rating reflect on me?”

This constant state of fear-floating stress is what keeps mankind in bondage within the chains of being. (It is the means in which the archons or “rulers” utilize to keep their Matrix-like system of control in working order, which is a subject I’ll get to in a future in-depth blog post). Yet, when you get down to it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that life is always in a constant influx of suffering and sorrow. Nor is it entirely joy and ecstasy. It’s what you make of reality (whether or not its a dream within a dream. Who knows, really?), and no one else can take that knowledge away from you.