Hey, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

19 April 2013

Hi folks,

So, how are things? The kids okay? Is that new hair cut? I dig the tattoo. Anywho, it’s been awhile. I’ve spent the last three-ish years writing a book on/of Iamblichean Neoplatonism. Three years is a long time. I blame the children. Well, the two and a half year old, anyway. I became a full-time stay at home dad and, if you are unaware of this, deep research on obscure topics and taking care of an infant are not fully compatible occupations. But its done now, all 99k words of it. Moreover, I sent out three book proposals/queries today. I’ve done this part with fiction before. It hasn’t really worked out the way I’d have liked, but such is life. Hopefully the non-fiction will work out better. Time will tell.

That’s pretty much all that’s really new with me. If Living Theurgy works out I have from two to four other books on related subjects I’d like to write, and there may be some more fiction in there somewhere as well. Assuming I can do all that, take care of the children, and teach at the same time.

What could go wrong?

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, a.k.a. Oh My God An Update!

16 March 2013

Crap! I mean, yeah! I’ve been tagged! My good friend, Shanah, all around awesome individual and writer, tagged me into The Next Best Thing Blog Hop.

My next bit thing may be a bit different, as I am currently writing non-fiction rather than my usual contemporary fantasy.

1. What is the working title of your next book?
When I write fiction, this is usually the first thing I try to come up with, as it sets a mood for the book. Then I end up changing it at the end to something that doesn’t suck. For the current WIP the title came by way of a book by Msgr. Jordan Stratford and his Living Gnosticism. Thus far, my book is title Living Theurgy: A Course in Iamblichus’ Philosophy, Theology, and Theurgy. The subtitle is subject to change at my whim. As is the main title, for that matter.

2. Where did the idea for your book come from?
I’m not certain there is a simple answer to this. I became interested in Neoplatonism some four or five years ago, focusing largely on the founder of “later” Neoplatonism, Iamblichus of Chalcis. What remains of which writings, which were copious, is largely fragmentary. Because of this it seems that no one has tried to systematize his teachings. There is a large gap here, and I’m trying to fill it as suitably as possible.

3. What genre does your book fall under?
Beyond a generic “non-fiction,” several. Philosophy, esotericism, theurgy, religion, theology. Any and all of those are appropriate. If there was a “thinks too much” genre, I’d put it there.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This would either make for the most boring movie ever, or the most awesome. I have no idea who I’d cast as Iamblichus. Probably someone Syrian and in his mid-to-late-thirties.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Again, a tough one, as there isn’t a plot, being non-narrative fiction and all that. Something like The current subtitle probably works well, though.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Probably neither. While I am not planning to self-publish Living Theurgy there is also typically not a lot of call for an agent in esoteric publishing.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About two and a half years. Mind you, about six months in we had our second child, as I’m the stay-at-home-while-also-working-out-of-the-house dad, that meant a lot less time writing and a lot more time changing diapers. As the book is both non-fiction and scholarly, there was a great deal of research through primary and secondary texts, too.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There is really nothing quite like this, specifically looking at Iamblichus. Probably the closest in the genre is Brian Hines’ Return to the One: Plotinus’ Guide to God-Realization, A Modern Exposition on an Ancient Classic, the Enneads. On re-reading that title, I’m pretty sure I need to make mine longer. Now, as a book not only on later Neoplatonism, but of Neoplatonism, I might optimistically compare it to Iamblichus’ De Mysteriis or Proclus’ Platonic Theology, but I would also likely be overly generous to myself in doing so.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Mostly it was the lack of such a book. These were things I wanted to know, and, frankly, its easier for me to keep it all sorted by writing it down, with several hundred citations and a eight page bibliography. If anyone else finds it useful, so much the better.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Well, in theory, this is the first of three books on the subject I plan to write. The second is a Neoplatonic Book of Hours, based loosely on the 15th century neo-pagan liturgical calendar reform of Gemistus Plethon but ranging beyond pagan Neoplatonism, much as does Living Theurgy. The third book is somewhat more theoretical. Living Theurgy is cap-stoned with a rite to invoke the personal daimon, sort of a guardian angel. This is one of the most important rites a theurgist undertakes. Beyond, this, however, is a ritual of assimilation to the Demiurge, variously Helios, Zeus, Christ, or a slew of other gods depending on the religious background of the practitioner. I am considering writing something on this to finish off the series, as it were.

Alright, now for my vict . . . nominee: Eric Satchwill. To simply plagiarize his web site:

Eric Andrew Satchwill is a writer living in his home town of Calgary, Alberta. Trans and unabashedly queer, he loves nothing more than to share his experiences, and learn about the experiences of others. He works predominantly in the realm of fantasy, but isn’t too choosy when a good story strikes. Eric took three years at the Alberta College of Art and Design and the visual arts will always have some place in his practice.

He has performed in the Miscellaneous Youth Network’s Fake Mustache drag king troupe for a number of years, as well as Demonika’s Metal A-Gore-Gore and Demonika’s Symphony Of Horrors 3. Exhibitions that he has shown in include The Artist Collective Event #2 at The Artlife Gallery,The Crysalis Project hosted by the Miscellaneous Youth Network at Art Central, and History of Wearable Art exhibition in Gallery 371 at the Alberta College of Art and Design.

Week in . . . Aw, let’s just catch up, shall we?

10 April 2012

Well, that didn’t last very long, did it? In my defense, this last week might have been the first in several without a sick child in the house. If you’ve never had small children, their colds are likely demonically inspired. However, as sleep is for the weak, we shall carry on.

The Chaos, my oldest daughter, was off from school last week, which means I got almost nothing accomplished. My Librarian will be out of town tomorrow and the day after, which means pretty much the same thing, though I might get a few paragraphs scrawled in Living Theurgy during the two hours the Chaos is at “half-day” pK4. I do not know in what world two and a half hours is half a day, but there it is.

I am on what may be the last chapter of the first main section of Living Theurgy, the Human Soul. I say may be because I’m not sure of the placement of one chapter yet. The chapter in question is on the curriculum of Iamblichus’ school of Neoplatonism, and possibly a general sort of curriculum for Neoplatonism, and whether it should go in the introductory section, along with the introduction and history chapters, or if it should go in the philosophy section. Either way, it is the next chapter to be written.

In various other parts of my life, I currently have four books sitting on my desk (well, okay, on my bookshelves) for review. Two of them will be reviewed for then ext issue of the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition and two are through LibraryThing. I promise to find time to read these. Honest. Also, we are now in the last week for submitting an abstract for the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition Conference. If you, or anyone you know, has any interest in presenting at this conference, please get your abstracts in no later than April 15th.

Tomorrow is the fifth class of the seven week course I’m teaching at Viterbo University. It is a small class, which is something I’m not quite used to, but it has been a good one with a good group of students. I am finding that I rather enjoy teaching an ethics class, though I am not certain how much my students enjoy me presenting far more questions than answers. Or that I keep saying it’s not really about what is quantitatively right and wrong but what leads the enquirer to a better life. However, as I typically teach religious studies rather than philosophy, this is more or less par for the course for me. That being said, in three weeks I’ll have over a dozen 8-10 page research papers and just as many 6-9 page final exams to read. As I’m the one making the assignments, I suppose I shouldn’t complain about that.

Oh, I also got to go gaming with friends with only one child. Which was cool. More gaming in a few weekends, this time with no children (thanks, Mom!) and with my Librarian, as a sort of early anniversary gift to ourselves. It’s the little things, you know?

So, how have you been?

Week in Review 3/18/12

27 March 2012

Last week saw a marked improvement in my back. It took all week for that to happen, but it did happen. I’d say I’m at around 85% in those regards. Writing-wise, I finished a draft of the chapter on the gods in Living Theurgy and got some good headway into the chapter on the rest of the superior beings (archangels on down to purified souls). Unfortunately, last week also saw the return of the crabby snotmonster that is my 15 month old with a cold while teething, which pretty much put a halt to any writing from Thursday on.

My second week of classes went well, and so far no one has dropped the class. Give that it is now week three, and I’m used to 15, not seven, week classes, its hard to believe we’re already almost half done. Which means I need to write a final to hand out for next week. Take home essays for the win? Well, the students liked the idea anyway. Then again, they haven’t seen the test yet.

How was your week?

Weeks in Review – 3/4/12 and 3/12/12

19 March 2012

You may have noticed a lacking of a Week in Review last week. At approximately this time last week, I was lying on the ground outside of my garage in something I can only describe as “excruciating pain.” In my desire to shrug off doing something productive for going for a walk, I did, well, something to my back. A trip few hours stay in urgent care, and a prescription for hydrocordone later, saw me at home “walking” with a cane. That’s pretty much what I did last week, excepting for beginning to teach a class on Ethics from the New Testament Gospels at Viterbo University. That, the mind numbing pain thing, not the Viterbo thing, is why I did write about the week before last week.

The week before last I did get some, though not a lot, of writing done. I am currently finished with drafts of the first five chapters of Living Theurgy and am working on the last section of the sixth chapter. I foresee two more chapters before finishing the first of the three sections of the book. The chapters of the first section are, tentatively, as follows:


Section I: Theologia
First Principles
The Spiritual and Natural Realms
The Demiurgos
The Greater Kinds: The Gods and Theology
The Greater Kinds: From Archangels to Heroes
The Human Soul and its Vehicle(s)

How were your week(s)?

The Week in Review – 2/26/12

5 March 2012

Let’s see, what did I do last week? Mostly, I prepped for class. That’s not particularly exciting. It basically means I read two books on philosophy and took notes. I think I have about 50 pages of typed notes. I have to keep my students occupied for seven weeks, after all.

I also finished the Demiurge chapter of Living Theurgy. At almost 6k words, it’s the longest so far. That’s actually pretty exciting, though, because it means the Theologia section of the book is about 3/5s finished. The book is also at over 20k words and the next chapter is almost at 6k words, too. That may mean a very thick book indeed, at least if the Philosophia and Theourgia sections follow suit.

I’ve edited everything I have for the next issue of the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition. We should be set for the equinox, though I still need to write (or con . . . vince someone to write) the editorial and come up with cover art.

Finally, besides a handful of migraines, which suck if you’ve never had one, I managed to throw my back out Saturday night.

Did you do anything interesting last week?

The Week in Review – 2/19/12

28 February 2012

Tuesday is better than Wednesday for a week in review, right? Anywho, last week was taken up by more prep-work for the class I begin teaching in two and a half weeks. I talked with my department chair. Which was good. I have a lot more leeway in how to set up the class than I had thought. So I’ve re-written bits of the syllabus and course units and will re-write all the quizzes. I also dropped a book that drove me crazy by combining history, myth, allegory, and speculation and then claiming “all of this really happened.” I also took some 40 pages of notes from the two books assigned for class reading.

Beyond the realm of pure academia, I started, and finished, a little painting project: two engolpions of the Neoplatonic noeric Demiurgos, variously identified with Helios, Christ, IAO, YHVH, etc., etc., etc., for a nascent, ecumenical, Neoplatonic ekklesia. The whole painting process can be found here.

I am hoping to have all my note taking done this week so I can go back to writing Living Theurgy. As always, you can follow the bouncing ball of my writing projects at my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreySKupperman. I am also considering starting a FB page for my painting. What do you think? Some of that is for sale, such as the Christian Rosenkreutz icon, and I also take commissions. While my style is generally that of an Orthodox writer, I do not limit myself to Christian figures. I am as happy to do an Odin or Thoth icon as I am to do one of Dionysius the Areopagite.

Anyway, how was your week?

The Week in Review – 2-12-12

22 February 2012

Yes, I know, it’s Wednesday. So let’s just hael Woden and move forward, okay?

Last week was supposed to be a writing week. I think I got about 2,000 words down in Living Theurgy. Maybe. The Demiurge chapter is seeing a lot of citations, which is always time consuming. It is turning out to be an interesting, and probably so far the longest, chapter in the book, though I expect the next chapter on the gods, reconciling poly- and monotheism in Iamblichus, and the greater beings (all those spiritual beings above the human soul) to be as long if not longer. A few more chapters and the theologia section will be done, then onto philosophia. There is a whole lot written about Iamblichus’ theology, but not so much about his out and out philosophy, so it should be an interesting section. Then, of course, comes the theourgia section.

Mostly, though, I spent the week emailing my department head about the class I’m teaching next month. That took more time, and a lot of mental energy. Which is probably more of an excuse than anything else, but such is life. I spent about 45 minutes talking with him in person today, but that will have to wait until next week’s check in.

How was your week?

Classical Demonology in Urban Fantasy

15 February 2012

There are several examples of how demons have been employed in contemporary and urban fantasy. Though not as popular as vampires, zombies and various species of lycanthropes, demons are still quite useful as powerful hitme . . . hitbeings, and may play a larger role at times, too.

In Jim Butcher’s popular Dresden Files (and yes, I am a fan), there is only the occasional use of demons. When they do appear, however, the system Mr. Butcher uses appears to be a modification of the Solomonic tradition. There is an important emphasis on the magic circle and the use of true names, though the latter is an important features of the series and does not relate only to demonic beings. The use of a magic circle seems to be very important. Crossing the circle, breaking its physical barrier, is enough to ruin the protection it provides, thus releasing the demon. The demon is generally unhappy at having been summoned in the first place and, well, they’re way bigger than most humans, even full-blown wizards. Goriness typically ensues.

Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series (and again, yes, a fan), employs demons differently. First, they are more active in the world. Some of the series main characters are half-demons, expressing some sort of power depending on the kind of demon their father is and how powerful he is. Ms. Armstrong also divides demon-kind in two groups, one evil and one . . . not actively evil: cacodemons and eudemons. As with the Solomonic system, there is also a hierarchy of demons, given the titles of human nobility. These titles, rarely used, are related to their overall power of the demon, which is transferred to a certain extent to their human-demon hybrid children. Perhaps most interesting, though, is that Ms. Armstrong has used, in at least few occasions, the name Aratron, one of the “Olympic Planetary Spirits” from the Arbatel of Magic. Though not considered a demon per se, that doesn’t really matter, as Ms. Armstrong presents Aratron as one of the most powerful of eudemons, which fits the Olympic spirits fairly well.

Finally, though it predates either Dresden Files or the Women of the Otherworld, is James Blish’s The Devil’s Day. This story is about a munitions mogul who is looking for the next big thing. He finds it in the form of demonic evocation. After hiring Theron Ware to summon a demon to assassinate a rival, Blish’s main character contracts Ware to summon every major demon in hell and let them loose for a day to see what happens. The result, of course, is Armageddon, with the win going to Satan, who now has to be God, whether he wants to or not.

Mr. Blish’s uses of Solomonic demonology is quite literal, and he derives his rituals and demonic descriptions from several medieval grimoires. His approach to the nature of the Goetic spirits and their hierarchy is taken verbatim from the grimoire tradition, resplendent in its Christian overtones. In this Mr. Blish’s demonology is far more conservative than than either Ms. Armstrong’s or Mr. Butchers, neither of whom, or instance, have a particularly religious overtone to their demonology. Where Mr. Blish’s demons are fallen angels, those of Mr. Butcher and Ms. Armstrong’s are simply very powerful, frequently, but not always, very evil, other-dimensional beings. We call them “demon” more out of reflex than accuracy.

Demonic evocation is a nearly untapped area in the genre today. These three examples demonstrate the variety of ways in which demons can be employed in contemporary and urban fantasy. With a deeper knowledge of classical demonology, the writer can create a realistic presentation of demons and evocation that can fit into almost any contemporary fantasy worldview.

The Gnostic Demiurge and Archons

15 February 2012

Though not technically part of classical demonology, with the growing popularity of modern Gnosticism, and the Gnostic bad guys as a largely untapped area for fictional villains, it is a useful area with which to be familiar.

What we might call classical Gnosticism is a form of early Christianity that did not become part of mainstream Christianity as we know it today in the West (i.e. descendants of the Roman Church). It flourished in the first and second centuries, had sects join Islam in the form of the Manicheans (who still exist today, though they are greatly persecuted in the Middle East) and lasted into the middle ages by way of the Cathars. Much as there are different sects or denominations of Christianity today, there were different sects among the classical Gnostics as well (and modern Gnostics, for that matter). Besides the Manicheans, the most well known sects were the Sethians and the Valentinians.

In Gnostic cosmogony the physical cosmos is created by a being sometimes called the Demiurge, and more regularly known as Yaldabaoth or Yaltabaoth, who is variously also called Saklas (Fool) and Samael (the Blind God, also a Jewish form of Satan). According to the Sethian Apocryphon of John Yaldabaoth was created by the aeon Sophia, a divine hypostasis or anthropomorphised element of divine reality. Sophia (Wisdom), did this without permission and without her masculine opposite, Barbelo (sometimes Christos, Christ, sometimes Sabaoth, in other forms of Gnosticism), and so instead of emanating like she had planned, she brought forth the malformed, insane and/or evil Yaldbaoth. Because of his origin, Yaldbaoth is filled with divine power and thought he was God. Being God, Yaldbaoth set about creating his own set of angels, the archons or governors. Together, Yaldabaoth and his archons would create humanity and enslave us into worshiping them as false gods.

Some of the the Gnostic texts give a very detailed account of the various archons. For instance, the Apocryphon of John tells us:

[Yaldabaoth] became strong and created for himself other aeons with a flame of luminous fire which (still) exists now. And he joined with his madness which is in him and begot authorities for himself. The name of the first one is Athoth, whom the generations call [...]. The second one is Harmas, who [is the eye] of envy. The third one is Kalila-Oumbri. The fourth one is Yabel. The fifth one is Adonaiou, who is called Sabaoth. The sixth one is Cain, whom the generation of men call the sun. The seventh is Abel. the eighth is Abrisene. The ninth is Yobel. The tenth is Armoupieel. The eleventh is Malcheir-Adonein. The twelfth is Belias, who is over the depth of Hades.

This is only a single list of archons within the Apocryphon, and The Hypostasis of the Archons and On the Origin of the World (all found in the Nag Hammadi Codex), give a similar story and different archonic names, though Yaldabaoth remains more or less the same, only varying in his degrees of evil and insanity.

That there are twelve authorities listed above is no coincidence. Yaldabaoth creates an archon for everything, the seven planets, the twelve zodiacal signs, the 365 days of the week and every part of the human body. The point here is that everything in the physical world is governed by these false gods. Unlike the Solomonic system, there does not seem to be a way to control the archons, though some have suggested magical gems with the image of Yaldabaoth or Abraxas on it might have been used in such a way (see here for an example from the blog of Gnostic priest, Jordan Stratford: Gnostic Gems. Unfortunately, the link on the blog is no longer working). The only way to transcend the control of the archons and their master is to transcend the phsycial world and return to the pleroma or fullness of God.

The next installment will be the last. In that I’ll discuss how some of this has been used in contemporary fantasy, looking briefly as Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld and the book that began my interest in the genre, Jame Blish’s The Devil’s Day.

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