By Frater S. C. F. V.
On OccultCorpus, R. Eugene Laughlin raised some interesting questions about the famous compendium of occult correspondences, Liber 777. I will say from the outset that I am by no means an expert on either the composition or the contents of 777. My response will be based on what I do know of the table from consulting it for the preparation of ceremonial magical Planetary talismans for the Ordo Aurum Lucerna and for compiling exercises for those wishing to learn the Qabalah.
R. Eugene first asked me if I agreed that “the value of such a table to a magician should, reasonably, depend on how well the groupings presented actually reflect the organization of the world in which the magician operates, or stated more technically, how well the items of each grouping actually cohere as a semantic structure within the magician’s emoto-cognitive system, which we might otherwise call the magician’s mind.”
I responded that I would I would agree with this statement in a nuanced or qualified form. In a sense, 777 provides many ‘contact points’ for the magician precisely because it synthesize material from so many divergent traditions, from Ancient Egyptian gods to plants, Qabalistic orders, etc. That is, it is very likely, given the sheer volume of paradigms that are interknitted into the table, that the magician will be able to find some sub-table that resonates or coheres with their operational worldview. If one can find such a point of coherence with one’s existent worldview, then the table can have value from the outset. This would be a case of Piaget’s assimilation, or just incorporating coherent information into one’s existing world-model.
However, it is possible that one can be a neophyte who encounters the table without knowing a thing about any of the paradigms it synthesizes together. For such a person, the table could still have value; however, in this case, its value would consist not in its ability to cohere with one’s existing worldview, but in the building blocks it furnishes for building a new magical worldview. That is to say, 777 provides a systematically arranged magical ‘vocabulary’ that one can use to construct a worldview that can become operational in magical practice; 777 can give one the words needed to articulate or express what one does, encounters, and theorizes about one’s magical work. In such a case, one’s relation to the table could be an instance of Piaget’s accommodation; in this case, one accommodates the information and adapts to it to shape a new model of the world.
R. Eugene Laughlin further proposed that “through experiencing the world as it is, the mind naturally comes to reflect the organization of that world. Further, making sense of the world is largely a matter of how well information about the things we interact with are grouped together. The take-home message is that things that naturally co-occur in the world become associated in the mind, which essentially means that when one part of an association comes to mind, everything else in the association comes with it: one cannot think of cowboys without a particular kind of hat coming to mind, along with many other things, like horses and cows, etc. And while branding cattle may not be a fully conscious thought initially, it’s very close to consciousness, so that, in the short term, it’s much easier to trigger a thought of branding than some unrelated activity, like playing ping pong.”
A great deal of what ceremonial magicians do involves harnessing the associative powers of the mind to produce intended effects within its emoto-cognitive structure. This is why we find such exhaustive lists of correspondences within the tradition in general and within 777 in particular. Magicians have long known of the phenomenon which interested the early 19th century psychologists, namely, the way one stimulus triggers the memory of another in the ‘mind’ according to their repeated pairing in experience. They have exploited this phenomenon to shape consciousness in desired ways with the goal of effecting change; this is why we try to maximize the number of associated objects to our target Planet or Zodiacal symbol or Element in a ceremony. It is not only to capitalize on the metaphysical principle of sympathy, but also on the psychological principle of association.
R. Laughlin’s essential question for me was “how do you think the table was most likely constructed? And then given that, should the correspondences reflect the world in which you operate?”
This two-part question is a wonderful one. The “how” of the matter is a historical question, which would require us to look into Crowley’s and the Golden Dawn’s records for how they conceived of the tables they were compiling. My knowledge of this historical aspect is shady at best, so I won’t endeavour to provide a definitive answer. What I do know, however, is that some of the tables of correspondences were drawn from traditional sources (Qabalistic, grimoiric, some Egyptological, etc.) and some of them were new creations in the sense that they had no literary precedents.
I believe that many of them were developed by extending principles; in Regardie’s Garden of Pomegranates, for instance, he discusses some of the tables of correspondences that link Qabalistic sephiroth to Hindu gods, Egyptian gods, Qabalistic Intelligences, etc. Understanding the nature of Kether as undifferentiated unity, for instance, and Brahman as embodying essentially the same concept allows us to see an affinity between the two; this is not simply a psychological association, but rather a recognition of a shared quality or property. Many of the sub-tables are directly linked back to the spheres and paths of the Tree of Life according to the principles traditionally symbolized by those sephiroth and paths. So, there is this dimension of shared qualities here, which gives rise to logical correspondences.
We must recall, however, that 777 was not passed down on stone tablets from heaven above; it was written by human beings and reflects the knowledge that they had about 19th century egyptology, for instance, and their limited knowledge of Hebrew and of the few Qabalistic works to which they had access. Therefore, I suspect that there is a subjective dimension to many of these sub-tables; indeed, with our better knowledge today, we might question many of the correspondences. We might reshape the tables according to our more thorough understanding of the units of meaning to be linked through the extension of principles. And, in fact, this is what I recommend modern magicians to do and certainly what I do in my own practice. This brings us back to your second question; by reshaping the sub-tables according to our own experience and understanding, we engage and interact with them to make them more closely reflect our operational worldview. And this makes them more meaningful to us and our understanding of our magical practice.