Posts Tagged Neoplatonism

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?

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:

Introduction
History

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 – 2/19/12

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?

Solomonic Demonology

14 February 2012

There is a class of ceremonial magic generally referred to as Solomonic magic. This is, of course, named for the famous King Solomon, son of David. The idea that Solomon was a magician is fairly old, as the second century Testament of Solomon, a sort of prototype for later Solomonic grimoires, attests. Though Solomonic magic is primarily Christian in origin, it is dependent upon both Jewish lore and Arabic magical practices.

The most famous of the Solomonic grimoires is perhaps the Lemegeton Clavicula Solomonis, the Lesser Key of Solomon. Mostly dating from the 14th century, the first book of the Lesser Key, called the Goetia, was made popular once again in the 19th century through the “translation” of S.L. MacGregor Mathers, one of the founders of the Order of the Golden Dawn. Though the second book of the Lesser Key, the Theurgia Goetia, is concerned with spirits which are both good and evil in nature, we will focus on the more well known Goetia, which deals with demons proper.

It is important to know that there is quite a debatable concerning whether or not the Goetia and Theurgia Goetia are about demons, i.e. fallen angels, or some other kind of spirit. Some of the demonic names found in the Goetia are clearly derived from the names of pagan deities. Astaroth, the 29th spirit, is an excellent example of this. The name “Astaroth,” who described as a mighty and strong duke, is understood to come from the Canannite goddess Ashtoreth, the consort of Ba’al, one of the Jewish God’s chief cultural rivals. However, not only are all 42 of the Goetic spirits considered diabolical, they are, generally, considered fallen angels, some of whom, we are told, hope to regain their place in heaven.

Each demon is given a rank: Marquis, Duke, Prelate, Knight, President and Count or Earl. In some Solomonic-derived systems, such as from the Grimoirium Verum, all of the demons are ruled over by one of three greater demons: Lucifer, Beelzebuth and Astaroth, though this is not part of the Lesser Key. Regardless, each demon listed is itself a greater spirit, ruling over a multitude of legions, a legion consisting of 6666 lesser demons. Further, each greater demon is associated with a certain power or ability. The aforementioned Astaroth, whose seal was featured on the “Malleus Maleficarum” episode of the WB’s Supernatural, can “make men wounderfull knowing in all Liberall siences.” The 40th spirit, the Earl Raum, is said to ‘steale Treasures out of kings houses, and to carry it where he is commanded, & to destroy Citties, and ye dignities of men; & to tell all Things past, & wt is, & wt will be; & to cause Love between friends & foes.”

The Goetia is not, however, simply a book about demons. It is a grimoire about how to summon, or evoke, the demons and bend them to servitude. The magic of the Lesser Key relies upon a number of physical implements, including magical seals, a large circle filled with divine names, a magical triangle, and a lamen, a sort of magical pendant, with the demon’s seal or signature on it. To these some include the vestments, magical sword and blasting rod found in the Greater Key of Solomon, which deals not with demonic evocation, but astrological talismans and other, similar, forms of magic.

The actual process of evocation is somewhat drawn out and makes use of lengthy prayers, conjurations and exhortations. Importantly, this is not a kind of demonolatry or diabolical worship. The magician does not even conjure the spirit through his or her own power, but through the holy power of God, who is called upon through various names, some Jewish, some akin to the voce mysteicae of Neoplatonic theurgy.

When next we meet, I’ll discuss, briefly, the Gnostic archons, before moving onto some examples of how classical demons have been incorporated into some well known, and maybe some not so well known, contemporary fantasy.

The Week in Review – 1-29-12

6 February 2012

Two in a row! Anyway, last week was a writing week and another chapter or so of Living Theurgy is done. The MS is at just over 13,000 words and I’ve set out a very, very rough outline of a table of contents. At the moment we’re looking at least 13-15 chapters, and probably around 50,000 words. That, of course is subject to change as necessary. There will also be a number of illustrations in the book, pictures of different Demiurges, gods, spirits, etc. I’m currently planning to paint them in the Orthodox icon inspired style I’m using for the Neoplatonic Tarot (and there will be a chapter on Neoplatonic aesthetics which will, amongst other things, discuss the influence of Neoplatonism on Orthodox Christian iconography).

That’s most of what took up the week. I did send out about 30 e-mails to various university department heads, advertising the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition Conference, and now only time will tell how well this works out or if the conference will have to be canceled.

And . . . that’s about it. Writing non-fiction isn’t quite as sexy as writing contemporary fantasy, so, alas, I don’t have any fun-filled, action packed quotations for you. This current week doesn’t look good, either.

The Week in Review – 1-22-10

30 January 2012

Let’s view this as an experiment, shall we? If you promise to read this, I promise to attempt to write it. Once a week we can talk about all the exciting things that happened to us. Okay, its my blog, so once a week I’ll write about all the probably-not-that-exciting-things that happened to me, you can respond and it’ll be like an actual conversation. It’ll be like we’re living in the future.

Or something.

Anyway. Last week saw the completion of the sketches for the Neoplatonism Tarot I’ve been working on for the last several months. You can find the drawings here: http://jeffreyskupperman.com/gallery/gallery2/. Surprisingly, I’m actually quite happy with most of these. I will likely add in some symbolism to the major arcana as I paint them, but otherwise, I like them. The deck will be painted on wood panels, with acrylic and gold leaf. As you can see, they are drawn in the style of Orthodox icons, and I will try to keep that going throughout the painting process. Each painting will likely be 10″x12″. I will likely write a book to go along with the deck, possibly writing each card as I paint them. Or maybe not. I don’t know yet.

Last week also saw the release of the official Call for Abstracts for the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition Conference 2012. You can find the CFA and information on the conference here: http://jwmt.org/jwmt12/. This will be held, assuming there are enough attendees and enough presenters, July 14-15 in Milwaukee, WI. If you’re interested in attending (or presenting) it would be great to meet you.

My Librarian and I spent Saturday at friends playing a Chaosium RPG set in Austro-Hungry in the 1890s. I’m playing a priest who sees visions of avenging angels and goes out to follow them. Which is to say he isn’t particularly useful unless God is giving him things to do. Also, he prays a lot. Still, it was great to get together with friends, something we don’t have a lot of opportunity to do these days.

Also, I have a cold. It is a baby cold, gifted to me by my 1 year old daughter. If you don’t spend a lot of time around small children you may not be aware that baby colds are evil. And vile. Far more evil and vile than grown-up colds. Consider yourself warned.

As dull as it may seem, that’s about it for the week. Each week I switch off on the various projects I’m working on. This weeks is writing chapters for my non-fiction book, tentatively entitled Living Theurgy. But we can talk about that next week.

An Urban Fantasy Writer’s Guide to Classical Demonology

5 August 2010

Ah, demons.

You know you love ‘em.

But what exactly is a demon? Where do they come from and what do they want? Considering that both my main characters, Ezekiel and Marcus, deal with demons on an all too regular basis, this is a in which subject I have some interest. So, in order to elucidate on the wacky world of demonology, and to give me a chance to get my PhD on, I’m going to use this space to to write about exactly that; demons.

I’m imagining several parts here. The first will likely tackle the tricky question of “just what is a demon, anyway?” I’ll look primarily at the more or less mainstream Abrahamic traditions but also a bit of Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, as I include some of that in my books. I’ll also take a look at what other authors have done, to get a good overview of the subject.

Second I’ll take a look at the Solomonic magical tradition, which has its roots in Jewish scripture and Arabic magical lore. Magic ascribed to King Solomon will flourish in the Middle Ages and Renaissance as well.

Third will be a look at the world of daemons, which may or may not be demons, depending on who exactly is doing the writing.

Finally a brief look at the Gnostic Archons, who aren’t exactly demons, but may as well be.

Will there be more? We won’t know until I start writing, will we?

peace
-Jeffrey (Demonologist extraordinaire)

What are Demons, Anyway? Etymology.

5 August 2010

So, you want demons in your story. Of course you do, who wouldn’t? Demons are bad ass. But demons aren’t just really big monsters. Yes, I know you’re the author so demons are whatever you damn well want them to be, but you do have an audience, and the word demon means something in particular to them. So, to get your demons seeming like demons, let’s try to figure them out.

Unfortunately, though “demon” might mean something in particular to reader X, to reader Y it might mean something else. The word is used a lot, to mean a wide variety of semi-related things. To look at this we’ll set the way back machine to ancient Greece and look at from where the English word “demon” comes. The word in question here is daimon.

In ancient Greek a daimon was a non-physical being, typically beneath the gods but above humans in the hierarchy of creation. A daimon can be either good or evil, specific or generic. For instance the Neoplatonists, in the 3rd century CE, talked about an individual’s guiding daimon. According to this you have your very own daimon (several, actually), who is trying to lead you towards the gods and the development of the soul to possibly god-like proportions. There are also daimons of fire that will try to trick and kill you. Different kinds of daimons, but all still daimons.

With the spread of Christianity, where daimons, such as the unclean sprits in the Gospels (though the term pneuma akatharton is also used, in Mark this becomes exchangeable with daimonion), daimons more or less become bad things for most people. This will be combined with the war in heaven from Revelations and the popular idea of demon as fallen angel is formed. Sure the contemporary Neoplatonists were still going on with a more traditional use of the term, but times change. The English word “demon” comes from the Latinized form of daimon, daemon. And so the evil demon is born. At least in English.

But this only tells us where the word comes from. Unfortunately it doesn’t tell us how it’s being used now. For instance when I think demon I rarely think “fallen angel.” Part of the difficulty is that English is not a particularly good language for dealing with such things. So while we have our demons, Judaism has lots of different demons, each with their own category, all of which we commonly translates as “demon.” That’s convenient, but not very helpful.

The language lesson is over, next we’ll look at demons in Judaism and then Christianity.