The Arbatel, I’ve concluded, essentially is a treatise on how to live in harmony, ease, and intimacy with the energies of the Multiverse. It begins by saying that the Arbatel “Is made of nine Tomes of seven septenaries of Aphorisms.” (Et habet Tomos neouem Aphorismorum septies septenorum; Turner transliterates this phrase as “Containing nine Tomes, and seven Septenaries of Aphorisms.”) Although the Arbatel declares that is it a document that contains nine chapters that each contain seven sections of seven aphorisms (total 49 aphorisms per section), the only known, existing “tome” of the Arbatel is the first, called the Isagoge, which the author of the Arbatel says relates “the most general precepts of the whole Art” and means “Book of the Institutions of Magic.” It does read like an overview except for a portion (aphorism 17) that goes into some detail about the Olympic Spirits, leaving late Modern and post-Modern occultists fixated on just that and conflating information within the Arbatel with their own magical paradigms.
Behind the Christian-based medieval piety is a spiritual paradigm that harkens to—not Solomonic or Cabalist magic or Rosicrucian mysticism (which the Arbatel likely predates)—but classical Roman paganism in which every conceivable thing had a tutelary spirit underlying its reason for being with the idea that harmony came through cooperative exchange. The treatise also can be categorized as “qualified nondualism,” in which it is acknowledged that all things have their source and existence within rather than in relation to God. This is inferred in aphorism 13:
The Lord lives and all things that live do so in him.
The Arbatel stands apart from other notable medieval grimoire. References to ceremonialism and Solomonic and Cabalistic trappings are marginal. Rather, the tract references Pythagorean, classical Hermetic, and classical Roman mysticism.
Although I initially thought that Aphorism 27, which gives instructions about drawing the Seal of Secrets, referred to the Olympic Spirits, I later realized that, no; it is meant to be a floor plan of where various tutelary spirits reside according to the day, season, phase of the moon, moon mansion, month, and zodiac.
Last summer, while conducting dreamtime experiments related to the Olympic Spirits and Arbatel with three other persons, I—and others in the group—were confronted with cryptic messages about the Seal of Secrets being a gadget, a calendar, something to sort through, and also one’s own body. All these things are true, but we were so stuck on the Olympic-Spirit slant that we did not see the bigger picture.
· I believe that the Seal of Secrets is a Western yantra of the Multiverse, the meditation on which, for the initiated, reveals the structure and interconnectedness of the macrocosm and the microcosm.
· Imagine the seal being multidimensional. The very center is a tiny sphere representing Phul, the elemental world, form, the body.
· Eight radials emerge from it which are like cones forming the armature of the Cosmos, each connecting the micrcocosm to the macrocosm. This is the pillar or channel within which is found the so-called six-rayed star. It is Ophiel, the Azoth, serpent power, and secret fire.
· Enclosing the small central orb is another orb. This is Hagith, the elemental sphere—the Earth, Earth Mother, and its sustaining energies. The sphere is guarded and buttressed by angelic entities related to the elemental humors: air, fire, water, and earth.
· Surrounding this is a cube that divides space into halves, representing duality, complementarities, oppositions, and tensions that move individual being into action and interaction. This is Phaleg.
· Surrounding the cube is another sphere that is like a corona that vitalizes all within it. This is Och.
· Boundlessly permeating all this and strung like a web on the armature is the Eros, Life Force, the World Soul, which is Bethor.
· Enclosing it all and providing a Ground of Being, Limitation, and Intelligible Design is the Intellectual Principle, which is Aratron.
The Seal also is a mnemonic, calendar-like device in which a person can place him or herself in a certain 23-hour or so time span (i.e., mansion of the moon) in a particular part of a week, month, astrological sign, and season and then reflect on, accommodate, or use all of the tutelary entities associated with that particular time frame. The problem is that the paradigm used by the author of the Arbatel is not explicit. Clues suggest that it wasn’t the same paradigm used by, say, Robert Fludd (1574-1627) or Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535), though.
Aphorism 27 includes the following information:
The Eastern secret is the study of all wisdom. The West is of Strength. The South, of cultivation. The North of a more rigid life . . . . The use of this seal of secrets is that, through it, you may know when the spirits or angels are produced that may teach you secrets they receive from God . . . .
This might place an angelic entity associated with Jupiter in the East, Sol in the West, Saturn in the South, and Luna in the North. We know that in Roman lore, Jupiter was associated with wisdom, Saturn with cultivation/agriculture, the sun with strength, and the moon with the natural and elemental world.
This section of aphorism 27 goes on to make references to the horsemen of the apocalypse (a Christian reworking of “the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.” [Zechariah 1:8-17, 6:1-8).
But they have names taken from their offices and powers, according to the gift that God has given to each one. One has the power of the sword [war; red horse], another of pestilence [death; pale horse], and another of inflicting famine upon the people [black horse], according to the will of God. Some are destroyers of cities [conquest; white horse], as those two [Michael and Gabriel, according to lore] were who were sent to overthrow Sodom and Gomorrha and the places adjacent to them . . . Some watch over Kingdoms; others are the keepers of private persons . . . .[tutlelary and guardian angels]
The author of the Arbatel continues, saying that persons and cultures have their own names for various angels—and also stresses elsewhere in the text—that spiritual entities, including the Olympic Spirits, are named after their offices and roles but may give more personal names and energy signatures to the people who enter into communication with them. In addition, the author states in the latter part of aphorism 27 that all that is needed is to address the angelic or tutelary entity “seriously, with a great mental desire, faith, constancy, and without doubt that what he asks he shall receive from God, the father of all Spirits. This faith surmounts all seals and brings them into subjection of the will of man. Calling angels through their characters follows this faith, which depends on divine revelation . . . .”Update 6-21-13. I plan to publish a book (e-book and print although the print will be costly in 4-color) about my experiences with the Arbatel and hope to have it ready by August of this year. It will include update material for this and my other blog and more. Also visit http:sorcerersandmagi.blogspot.com. I also have a Rizzoma (closed chat) site where discussion on the Arbatel can take place. It is set up but the original lot of people invited to participate have mostly all not followed through. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for info.
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