The Occult Logic of Correspondences: Reflections on Liber 777

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.

Decisions at the Crossroads: How to Respond When Caught Between Divergent Paths

Decisions at the Crossroads: How to Respond When Caught Between Divergent Paths
by Frater S.C.F.V. or Philosophadam

A knowledgeable and experienced poster at Occult Corpus named Aeternitas recently revealed that he found himself going through a spiritual Dark Night of the Soul and wondering about which path he should take.   One the one hand, he saw the value of the Golden Dawn ritual, magical philosophy, and divination methods with which he had become familiar.  On the other, he felt drawn towards “Goetic Evocation with a spirit friendly attitutude, conjure sorcery, sympathetic magic and magical practices related to the ancestral spirits.” His plight raises a universal question for practitioners of all spiritual paths: what does one do when one finds oneself caught between two apparently opposed paths? How should one respond in these moments?

There are three possible responses to such moments, which are embodied in three divergent pieces of advice.  When we find ourselves caught between two apparently divergent paths, we can either (1)  keep pushing on despite the internal resistance, (2) follow our intuition away from the comfortable road and towards the one that beckons us on, or (3) attempt to synthesize the two divergent apparently paths into a coherent whole.

1. Pushing On Down the Well-Traveled Path

The first possibility is to keep forging on despite the internal resistance we feel as we stand at the crossroads of paths. Many of the magicians I have met throughout the years have taken this path before. I know some really seasoned Golden Dawn and Grimoiric magicians who have told me of times when they hit stumbling blocks in their practice and lost their motivation to do the rituals within their tradition. They sometimes lost faith in their practices, felt drawn towards alternative paths, felt they had no time to practice, and many other such things. Yet, they told me, they pushed on and while their progression was sparse and strenuous for a time, it grew increasingly rewarding as their practice accelerated and they had breakthroughs that moved them forward. These magicians would enjoin us to push on, despite our momentary resistance to our familiar path.

In my own life, I have sometimes followed this approach. Sometimes I have found it helpful; at others, I have felt it did not adequately respond to the intuitive nudges and synchronistic callings that I experienced. My own experience would therefore suggest that there are phases of our lives when sticking to the well-trodden path and pushing on in the same vein is wise and others when it is not what we feel we truly need to do. We must look within and see which of these phases we are in. Some experimentation and introspection can help us to discover where we stand in this regard.

2. Straying from the Familiar and Embracing the New

Second, when we are not deeply satisfied with pushing on down the familiar path, we can take another approach: we can follow our intuition away from the tried and trusted path. I am a member of a Golden Dawn Order, but there are times when I feel drawn away from the Golden Dawn path altogether. Sometimes I feel the lantern of wisdom drawing me in other directions so strongly that I will give up all G.’.D.’. ritual practice for extended periods of time to work with other practices and traditions. Sometimes these intuitive callings have lead me to make deeper inquiries into physical science. Sometimes they have eased me into Eastern practices such as zazen(seated Zen meditation) and atma vichara (self-inquiry). Sometimes they have drawn me to Sufi poetry, or the writings and experiments of Douglas Harding, or Christian mysticism. Sometimes they have drawn me back to the Golden Dawn tradition itself. There have been some phases of my life in which sticking to the familiar G.’.D.’. path seemed like the wrong course of action for me, like the universe was calling me elsewhere to teach me new lessons or offer me fresh perspectives. And I have not yet regretted any of these journeys or forays into the unknown or untraditional. They have added richness to my life and have taught me a great deal. Perhaps it is not forging on, but following your own intuitive call into the unknown that we need at this moment.

3. Synthesizing the Divergent Paths into a Coherent Whole

A third and final possibility is to question whether these apparently two paths are really as irreconcilable as we may think. AEternitas, for instance, seemed to see a disjunction between (1) Golden Dawn ritual, magical philosophy, and divination methods on the one hand and (2) “Goetic Evocation with a spirit friendly attitutude, conjure sorcery, sympathetic magic and magical practices related to the ancestral spirits” on the other.  To reveal just how we can find space in our tradition to encompass another that seems very different from it, I’ll take AEternitas‘ example as a case in point.

My own experience with the Golden Dawn system is that it is remarkably open to synthesizing new material and that its system is broad enough to encompass nearly any new phenomenon that we may encounter. The original Golden Dawn adepts themselves practiced Goetic evocation, for instance, albeit not with a very spirit friendly attitude. I find myself partial to this spirit-friendly attitude myself; I see it as the only approach consistent with a non-anthropocentric philosophy of magic. Since I reject anthropocentrism in secular ethics, I must also, to be consistent, reject it in magical ethics, at least for most kinds of spirits. There may be some entities for which the old ‘master and control’ approach is the only viable one if we are not to come to harm as a result of dealings with them or produce ineffectual results, but for the overwhelming majority, I would say that a spirit friendly approach is more than adequate. Certainly, this is the approach we generally take to dealing with most kinds of angels and archangels.

Conjure sorcery is also not necessarily incompatible with Golden Dawn practices. Many of the methodologies within conjure sorcery can be located within one sephiroth or path of the Tree of Life or another. They continue to work with the realms of the Tree, even though they do so using practices that may fall outside of the conventional Judaeo-Christian paradigm. Indeed, there may be some value in thinking about the Qabalistic dimensions of the practices to which you feel called or drawn in this regard. The Qabalistic system is remarkably suited to including new material into its organizational and categorizational system; some Jews have criticized this facet of the Qabalah as moving Qabalists into dangerously non-kosher territory. This is one possible perspective. Another is that shared by people such as Israel Regardie and myself, namely that this organizational flexibility and adaptability to new data is a virtue of the system that enables it to be versatile in the face of new material.

As for sympathetic magic, the whole Golden Dawn system is grounded in sympathetic magical theory. When one vibrates the Name of an archangel it is because one believes that the Name is itself in sympathy with the larger force on which one intends to draw; by using the one, we hope to harness the power of the other by virtue of sympathy. The same is true for the symbols we draw on talismans in talismanic magic, for the items with Planetary and Elemental correspondences that we integrate into our magical ceremonies, and even for the colours of the candles in the Hall of the Neophytes. Sympathetic magic is far from foreign to the Golden Dawn approach; if you seek to explore it in new directions, this would, in my eyes, be in keeping with the overall rationale that undergirds the Order’s magical philosophy.

The one teaching that may be somewhat different from, though not necessarily out of keeping with, the Golden Dawn’s approach is the practice of ritually working with dead ancestors. And yet, even here, we find evidence that Golden Dawn magicians have done work of this type as well; Arthur Waite’s book The Book of Ceremonial Magic, for instance, was notably titled Including Sorcery and Necromancy. And there is a Qabalistic theory that suggests that the souls of the dead remain active in the various realms of being, sometimes even transmigrating throughout them, which would, when coupled with the principle of sympathy, justifiably allow one, from a ceremonial magical perspective, to work with them. Therefore, even this practice might not be as foreign to the Golden Dawn system as we might initially believe it to be.

Conclusion: Finding Our Way at the Moment of Truth

In short, when we find ourselves caught between two apparently divergent paths we can take one of three approaches: (1) stick to the path we have been treading for so long, (2) forsake it completely to dive headlong into the new paths that calls to us, or (3) attempt to synthesize the two. I have used all three of these approaches at different periods of my life. My final piece of advice to anyone finding themselves at a crossroads of spiritual paths is to think about which of these options is best-suited to their present situation. This is a question that each individual must ask and answer for themselves.