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The Return of Hermes

 David Pantano

Notes on the Body of Peers, a contemporary group of Hermetic practitioners

The Hermetic Texts from the Body of PeersThis article traces the presence of an underground cell of practitioners dedicated to advancing the hermetic arts from the late 60s until recent times and known as the Body of Peers (Corpo dei Pari). Led by Giammaria,1 the group made valuable contributions to the Hermetic arts, not only for their highly sought after opus of books, articles, paintings, sculptures and Tarot decks,2  but also for the organizational paradigm underlying the group which favors non-hierarchical and individualistic relationships among members similar to contemporary modes of social structures known as the Hive mind.3 The Hive Mind paradigm prevails in artistic communities and even in start-up organizations (Hermes is after all the patron of commerce) where an experiential and experimental modus operandi of innovation, creativity, agility, and knowledge transfer is valued. The Body of Peers unique blend of tradition and individual self-discovery is suited to serve as a prototype for future groups dedicated to the study and practice of the Hermetic tradition as well as to solitary psychonauts exploring the frontiers of consciousness.



“AK Z UR is a name of initiation (presumably of Assyrian-Chaldean derivation) manifested from an “ancient resonance” in a subtle state of perception beyond the dimension of that which is commonly referred to as “real”; this name can be understood in terms of an inner archeology or as the manifestation of a retrospective process along the lines of “an excavation of the inner self”.

 Introduction to The Book of Ak Z UR

Giammaria Icarus
Giammaria representing Icarus

NISI NOBIS SOLIS SCRIPSIMUS (We write solely for ourselves) is a quote attributed to the English Renaissance alchemist George Ripley and serves, appropriately enough, as the leitmotif that informs a curious collection of writings attributed to a group of seekers based on the Northern Italian port of Genova and dedicated to the research and practice of Alchemical-Hermeticism.4 The group, known as the Body of Peers (Corpo dei Pari) was founded in the late 1960s by an erudite Artifex named Giammaria and continues, in one form or the other, up to present times.

“…. and not only from a literary perspective does the publication of “The Hermetic Acts of the Body of Peers” break ground with their interpretations of the multiple forms of hermeticism, but also from an historical perspective by revealing the occult works of an underground laboratory dedicated to Initiatic practices within the city of Genova.”



Giammaria Sagittarius
Giammaria representing Sagittarius the Archer

This slender volume is neatly organized into bite-sized sections consisting of manifestos, statutes, archival documents, and rituals. The section allotted to rituals is heavily truncated with omissions, suggesting much of the material associated with work conducted on an Eonic plain has not been made available for public consumption. The published material is laden with mythogenic sections including excerpts from reserved texts, such as the Corpus Philosophicum Totius Magiae of Giuliano Kremmerz, prophesies recovered from a 18th-century Argentinian monastery that foretells the fate of the West, and a wide selection of visions, dreams, mnemonic tables, and carmenic verses.5

To start with, an explanation is due with respect to the meaning of “Body” and why it was named such. “Body” since no other word better expresses the relationship between the individual members (PEERS) and the structure of the group (in a synergistic sense). “Body” can also be understood as a holistic group of individuals united by similar goals, a circle of members that can expand or contract, increase or decrease, while maintaining a formal unity in spite of their considerable differences. In this respect, it should be noted that members of the Body of Peers were limited in number, never surpassing, at any given time, a dozen individuals.

“In accordance with practices passed down from the Alchemical-Hermetic tradition:6  members of the “Body” are referred to as “Peers”, because they are free to apply their research to whatever field they choose, freedom to follow a practice congenial to their nature and based solely on their own choice, internalizing the teachings through an art and a means congruent to their abilities.”

In Doctrinal terms:

There is only one Path (with a capital P)

With two stages: Wet and Dry

And three systems: Nigredo, Albedo, and Rubedo

There are two means or methods to enter the Path, incorrectly referred to as the wet path and the dry path and otherwise known as the short art and the long art; rather they are better defined in terms of “Humors” and “Will”. Seven are the “ways” along the Path that correspond to the seven forms of manifested Intelligence.

Individually, the Peers are responsible for selecting a type and method of the art to practice. The same rituals are made available to all those with a propensity for following a ceremonial practice, that is a “path of humors” or other methods for those with a strong inclination towards following a “path of will”.

Therefore a system based on grades or hierarchy was never in place, except the grades and hierarchies associated with administrative duties, which are not connected with initiation, and in perfect alignment with the alchemical tradition does not follow a “common” or “collective” practice, rather is oriented more towards individual operators and solitary experimenters. For this reason, the Body was never reduced to an “Order” (in a masonic sense).

Also viewed from this context are the sections outlined in the “Pragmatic” which assign the role of a “Regent” and associated administrative tasks in strictly exoteric terms. References to an “italic race” or to “maintaining the utmost secrecy”, should be taken “Cum Grano Salis“.  Certain forms of ritual practice developed within the laboratory should be understood as a means to “awaken” dormant constitutions or to “trigger” self-awareness among individuals displaying mystical tendencies.

Similarly, a particularly intense period of activity by the Peers, coincided with the posting of “Manifestos” on the walls around Genova and environs, drawing inspiration from the original Rosicrucians. This period was subsequently prorogued for another four years, by those who held the regency exclusively for their personal title, and which allowed for a greater decantation of “essences” than what was extracted from the preceding period.

In a quadrennial appendix, direct contact among Peers ceased or were maintained outside of any regular organizational structure.  The qualification of “Peer” extends to anyone whose work was inspired by the doctrines of the Body of Peers. The most significant texts include – a priori –  “The Book of Ak Z UR” and – a posteriori – the “Tables“.7  However, it should be noted that the documents published in these volumes refer exclusively to the septennial cycle, i.e. when the “Body” worked “sub facie humana” and not to the Eonic-idealist work practiced in more recent times. During this cycle, the principal doctrines were revealed in the form of “Tables” (parables, verses, and diagrams) included in the book “Compendium of Hermetics”, which has yet to be published in an exhaustive edition.8

“Of particular note are the means by which teachings were communicated to the Peers at different times and in different versions containing hidden errors and discordant passages (not easily detected). These teachings were directed towards re-orientating mystical types to hinder their blind acceptance, in a pedestrian sense, of an ISPE DIXIT. Rather through direct experience were the truth claims of hermetic propositions validated.9 Therefore imprecise formulas were purposely assigned during the laboratory work to allow the experimenter the opportunity to detect inaccuracies and discover hidden truths or at least to “infer” their plausibility, beyond that which is blindly accepted or mechanically internalized.10 This type of practice corresponds to the principle of a hermetic “ruse”, typical of a certain type of teaching that informs the higher expressions of the self.11 Relationships planted and cultivated among the “Peers” were inspired by the criterion that “there are no exalted Masters”; only the Principle (Hermes) is supernal and universal; whereas the tendency to exalt Masters is an illusion on the Path”. Therefore the term “exalted Master” acquires a different meaning and serves as a trope (deviation) and should be referred to and assumed as such.”12

A testimony of the work produced by the BODY OF PEERS during their septennial cycle includes the posting of “Manifestos” on the walls around the city of Genova and environs. They were referenced by a Genovese newspaper through the pen of a beguiled columnist, who identified the perpetrators as belonging to a vague mystical sect … and nothing more!  The article states: “With the publication of (The Hermetic) Acts, it can be rightly said the auspicious day has arrived whereby the mystery shall be revealed.”  The columnist further quotes one of the Carmens:

CARMEN: seven from twelve / one into four.

Could be paired with the old Genovese saying “three for eight and one frank leaves twenty” and instead refers to the first “verse” – let’s call it that, of a strange poem that a private citizen has printed and plastered in recent days on the walls around Genova and the surrounding Riviera. Estimates on the number of Manifestos posted are said to be less than a hundred, however, they have aroused such curiosity that you would believe they were a thousand or ten thousand, as ascertained by the police and local officers, who have begun an investigation.

The reason for all of this interest is very simple: it’s not clear what the writings mean. To say the poems are hermetic is to say very little as the reader will quickly discern.  The preface to one of the Carmens reads:

“Vanished, dispersed and abandoned – they know not the path of the consecrated! Having attained the investiture, no longer mystics they have become Adepts, Initiates of the Teachings, having de-cloaked their Masks to reveal an inner Face, a Sun, projecting light through the infinite reflections of the cosmic mirror.”

It is obvious that some form of inspirational, vaguely religious, or mystical component is associated with the posters. When asked, the owner of the print shop that produced the posters, said a certain gentleman of age provided a false address and mentioned his name was Roncallo. He stated the text’s concern a new philosophical movement … “

(from the newspaper “IL LAVORO” 20 January 1967)

To conclude in the words of the “Regent”:

“There were members of the “Body of Peers” who came and left soon after, frightened by their first experiences, those who became disappointed and fled when they didn’t find the “empty idols” they were searching for; or those who failed to find a useful outlet for their practice. Then there were those who started as novices or as mystical types and finished as adepts. Just desserts to the one and to the other, to those who’ve failed and those who’ve continued along the Path and carry forth the practices until this day.”13


* PROCLAMATION. We consorts of the ROYAL ART, both visible and invisible, stake ground in this City for those who carry forth the TEACHINGS and realize the WORK, the Return of Hermes to the City of Janus, at the end of the Saturnalia A.D.V.

* PROPHECY of MASTER ODER-BNE-ORMZ: Two Crosses face each other from across the banks of the Tiber, one appears to the other like the spectre of an Oasis in the midst of a desert, in appearance they seem hostile, but in reality are secretly aligned. A bloody war will ensue that eclipses the Moon and where great acts of revenge will be exacted…

INTERPRETATION by MORKOHEKDAPH on the meaning of this prophecy and, in general, of all “prophecies”… as representations of the initiate’s solar body, the interpretation of dreams or inspired visions do not, in of themselves, take into account the perspective of simultaneous events occurring within optical laws on the astral plane, such as those depicted in (abstract) paintings  – rather through the necessity of adaptation, seen events (visions) are arranged in an order, which is not always logical or does not historically correspond with their effective manifestation … Furthermore, the word’s essence (numen) is formed by syllables often truncated, that when reunited refers in a logical sense to the context, and in some cases, the syntactic order can spell out the letters of the divined object.

…. the Centaur symbolizes Turin (Taurus) ……and the Ship Genova! …. the Moon … possibly refers to the waxing Crescent Moon in Europe (Turkey) or of the Middle East and North Africa…..there will form (throughout Europe) groups of resistance against the foreign invasion.  Once the danger ceases, freedom will be restored …

This prophecy, which present times bear witness to its actualization, was divulged by Giuliano Kremmerz in 1926, from documents dating back to 1840 and first received from the Convent of San Francisco in Salta, Argentina, circa 1890.

The Hermetic Texts from the Body of Peers


  1. Giammaria Gonnella, (in art: Giammaria, Ak Z UR, GMG, etc) is a modern Renaissance man, lawyer, writer, painter, archer, martial artist, skydiver, etc. and renowned for his great humanist and juridical culture. A lifelong exponent of alchemy, initially studying under the magus Marco Daffi, a disciple of Giuliano Kremmerz, deciphering the complex symbolism of alchemy and pursuing a synthesis between different western and oriental traditions, to develop the nucleus of a spiritual path suitable for modern times.
  2.  The Tarot According to the Isis Banquet and the I Ching, Artist Auri Campolonghi Gonella created a deck of Tarot cards inspired by Marco Daffi’s writings on the Tarot and which correlates the symbolism depicted in the Bembine Table of the goddess Isis in various stages of initiation. The Bembine Table or Mensa Isiaca is a tablet probably of late Roman origin that was acquired by Cardinal Bembo in the late Renaissance and passed through various courts of Italian nobility and resides now at the Museum of Turin.
  3. In Vino Veritas, It should be pointed out that members, rather than gravitating as planets do towards a sun, are like comets, some may be closer and others further away, when it comes to setting a course that doesn’t slavishly follow a received way…Therefore the individual members are not subjected to group work and even less is group work subjected to any individual member.
  4. Hermetic forma mentis is rooted in a vision of life (weltanschauung) that sees every single thing connected with every other thing by virtue of the original One (Principle). As the well-known phrase from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes suggests “As it is above, so it is below” there is an emanational continuity linking the Macrocosm with the Microcosm through multiple dimensions of reality, including the causal, astral and hiliiac planes. To draw from a broader range of references, the Hermetic practitioner privileges alternative modes of cognition such as thought-by -images, intuition, mnemonics, and dream states to develop an epistemological system, an Hermetica Ratio that derives the plurality of phenomena (vestiges) back to their archetypal origins (numen).
  5. The Hermetic Acts of the Body of Peers (Dagli Atti Del Corpo Dei Pari) Edizioni Alkaest, 1978 Genova
  6. Alchemy this unknown, Alchemical-Hermeticism is the preferred term used by the Peers. Alchemy is a branch of hermeticism which includes magic, astrology, cabbla, and divination among others. Giammaria defines alchemy as the transposition of consciousness from the historically-bound personalized individual to the archetypal transpersonalized individual.
  7. The Book of Ak Z Ur … represents a “summation” of Hermeticism, an organic treatise dressed in contemporary clothes to accentuate even further its universal content. In the Book are fixed the images of the WORLD, MAN and the GREAT WORK, under categories of tables, designed as mandalas: and clearly formulated into operational reference points. Therefore, this book may be known by a reader to the extent that the content is experienced and assimilated. In this sense, the tables from the Book of Ak Z Ur can act as agents in the integrative process, for Hermes’ Star shines equally in the rational sphere – and if rightly practiced, can magically evoke a hermetic force of thinking, signifying and acting.”
  8. Alchemy According to Giammaria by Hermelinda, The alchemical laboratory is located within the operator; All the representations and symbols are related to different states and realities of the Work (sulfur = spirit, mercury = soul, salt = body)
  9. Athanor is the man himself, while “metals” represent the individual psycho-physiological complexes. Fire is the psychic charge used in the Work, the awareness. The “dense” lead represents one’s own individuality, formed by the complexing of psychic fields; The “Subtle is constituted” by the Self, the Numen, the Deus Absconditus and is disaggregated from the historical self, the point of contact between identification of the personal and the “individuating transpersonal” self. By this Lead will be transformed into Gold, that is, the individuation of the historical-bound individual will merge with the archetypal conscience of the Principle. The fundamental concept, both of the Work and of Life itself, is precisely that of the Principle of things, which is a unified Field placed beyond Time-Space, beyond any structure, beyond the energy/matter dualism. This is the universal mind, God, Great Spirit, Abstract, Great Magical Agent, indefinable, unknowable. It is the Void that manifests the Universe, with universal laws, and is the substance of all structures. It is in the being of humans that the Principle expresses itself in its fullness, becoming intelligent in the form of consciousness.
  10. Alchemy According to Giammaria by Hermelinda, Ordinary man does not realize the potentiality of the universal mind, if not in minimal part, by his consciousness which is tied to his historical self. As his consciousness begins to develop, gradually becoming aware of the interconnection of the relationships of the universe. According to the alchemical perspective, the World is depicted as an antithesis between cosmos and chaos, in contrast between” fixed “and” mobile.” The “positive” and the “negative”, a background where the existential theme of the Technique, a mode of operation that requires the intense living of the reality of the Quotidian being “in the world” and “of the world” for as long as it can be enough. There are several “exercises”, in other words, operating moments in everyday life, performed in full sacredness, though not true rituals – with this there is a difference between magic and alchemy – where “laboratory work”, in the sense of day-to-day activities, is lived with complete integrity.
  11. Alchemy According to Giammaria by Hermelinda, In this perspective, Alchemy is not to be regarded as a mystical practice, but rather as an initiatory technique through which to live life in a continuous operation. Your life will be entirely designed in this manner, and the constant desire for awakening will fuel the transformative interior fire. The transformation will take place thanks to the constant filtering of the imperturbable and immobile observer that the operator has been able to construct in his own interior. The realization of the Great Work cannot fail to reach down through the deeper forces of the unconscious, which will gradually integrate to acquire consciousness. There will be a progressive separation, a “solve”, to be exercised with great humility, patience, and perseverance, of the observer from the observed contents. All psychic complexes, emotions, instincts, desires are energies created through repression, which channels these energies into the depths of the unconscious, where they continue to proliferate, destined to re-emerge sooner or later, with often devastating forms of psychic-physical outbursts. The secret of the Work is to transform these energies through the purifying fire of observation, into the “solve” and “coagulum”, “action” and “reaction”, “day” and “night” operations.
  12. Alchemy According to Giammaria by Hermelinda, There will awaken an inner Sun to affect a dis-identification of psychic contents, by means of constant conscious observation that “distills” the contents until they become transparent. “Making the volatile fixed” means to solidify and stabilize the conscious experience of Life within the parameters of day-to-day self-hood (individuality). A possible interpretation of the symbol of the cross could be by a horizontal line representing the flow of material life bound through the space-time paradigm, and by the vertical line representing the unconditioned and infinite universal life. Giammaria indicates three important exercises to “de-realize” from time and space, by breaking habitual engagements with existential situations. The only reality that counts at this point is to adjust the frame (the relationship of the Self), in the background of an anonymous, de-personalized, and timeless consciousness.
  13. Alchemy According to Giammaria by Hermelinda, The Great Hypothesis of Alchemy is, therefore, already in existence with the centering and identification of the self with its Principle, on a journey that the operator has to travel to achieve the conscience of the One in All and All in One. Because everything is in Us: the Eternal corresponds with the consciousness that lies unexplored in the depths of every human being. All that is termed “gods” and “angels” correspond to deep forces that reside in one’s own interiority. It is a full-fledged upheaval that will free the operator from being subjected to the chaos of the elements. one becomes One with one’s Life.
  14. Alchemical Hermetism by G.M.G, Each human being (whether man or woman) is a physical and temporal individuation that takes form from the unified energy field that is the Principle (universal) of any manifestation. Each being is, therefore, an episode that in its historical and biographical form appears only as separate from “others” (like a drop of water from other drops in the sea). Therefore, a human being is a person (mask) within a unique, indefinable and indescribable source that is beyond any terminological definition (which is true of matter-spirit, physical-psyche, etc.). However, the individual “believes” he is individually separate from “others” and from the Principle which he is basically born from and which he refers to as “I”, “you”, “them”, “us”, unaware that “others” are, like him, a drop of water in the sea. If instead of identifying with his mask (person), his physical and temporal self, the consciousness of the human being expanded to the awareness of “what is beyond his biographical boundaries”, can magically live life by perceiving the body as the one body of the universe that participates within the dream of the One Mind in the Personal Mind …

Hermetic Library of the Body of Peers


  • Giuliano Kremmerz and the FR+TM+Myriam (Giuliano Kremmerz e la Fr+ TM+ di Myriam)
  • The Brotherhood of Myriam Historical Records (Le carte storiche della Fratellanza di Myriam)
  • Corpus Philosophicum totius magiae (Total Magical Philosophical Work)
  • Hermetic alchemy, therapy and erotica (Alchimia Ermetica terapica ed erotica)
  • Thesaurus Medicinae Dei – The Rite of Hamzur – The Hermetic Book of the Dead (Thesaurus Medicinae Dei – Il Rito di Hamzur – Il Libro Ermetico dei Morti)
  • The Avatars (Gli Avatars)
  • Introduction to Mantics (Introduzione alle mantiche)
  • The Tarot according to the Isis Banquet and the I Ching (Il Tarocco secondo la Mensa Isiaca e l’I King)
  • The Mirror of virgins (Lo specchio delle vergini)
  • Solvet et Coagula (Dissolve and Coagulate)
  • Dissertations (Dissertamina)
  • The Book of changes – I-Ching (Il Libro dei Mutamenti – I-King)
  • Philosophical letters (Epistolario filosofico)
  • Confidential letters (Epistolario confidenziale)
  • Alchemical Hermeticism (Ermetismo alchimico)


* Marco Daffi and his work   (Marco Daffi e la sua opera)

· Hermetic Compendium  (Compendio di Ermetica)

· The Book of Ak Z Ur  (Il Libro di Ak Z Ur)

  • Synoptic Tables (Tavole Sinottiche)· Excerpts (Gli Excerpta)• Among us gods (Inter nos Dii)· Alchemy this unknown  *  (L’Alchimia questa sconosciuta) *· Alchemy Magna Ars  (Alchemy the great art)· The Hermetic Synthesis  (La Sinossi ermetica)· Alchemical Hermetic Dictionary **  (Dizionario ermetico alchimico)· Hermetic Paradoxes  (Paradossi di Ermetica)· Alchemical Fluids  (Succhi alchimici)· Alchemical Fluids – Other Version   (Succhi alchimici – altra versione)· From the Hermetic Tribunal  (Dalla tribuna di Ermete)· Portiuncula Hermetica  (hermetic chapel)· Script Dicta et Dicenda  (Written and Said)· War Stories  (Inventario di guerra)· Notes on Paranormal phenomena  (Sui fenomeni paranormali)
  • Ad usum (In Use)· Correspondence inLetters (ex epistulis)  (Da l’epistolario ex epistulis))· Ex epistulis (second part)  (Letters)· Sermones ad vivos  (Conversations with the living)
  • To Be Continued (Continua)


· Introduction to a separate reality  (Avviamento a una realta separata)

· The Egyptian tarot  (Il Tarocco egizio)

· From the Acts of the Body  (Da gli Atti del Corpo dei Pari)

· Sub secretis  (In Secret)

· Collect  (Collecta)

· Tables of the Mute Book  (Ordinazione delle Tavole del Mutus Liber)

· Ritual of the Body of the Peers  (Riti del Corpo dei Pari)

· Mensa Isiaca (Isiac Table by A. Kirchner)

· Arbor mercurialis  (mercurial tree)


· Kabbalistic stories  (Novelle cabalistiche)

· The Crow cries twice  (Il corvo gracchio due volte)

· The Gift of the Lion  (Il dono dell’Alieno)

· Glossary to AK Z UR  (Glosse al Libro di AK Z ?UR)

• Witches and Sorcerers  (streghe e stregoni)

· Stroking the fire (see Egyptian Tarot)  (Enarrando enarrando)

· Tables of Inter nos Dii  (Tabulae di Inter nos Dii)

· Pictoral Rooms (see Hermetic Synopsis)  (Stanze pittoriche)

* Tabulae pictae  (The pictures)

· Firmamentum (The Firmament)

· Triumphs of the Egyptian Tarot  (Trionfi del Tarocco Egizio)

·  24 Amerindian Drawings (24 Figure amerinde)

Giorgio SanGiorgio

· In Vino Veritas  (Where there is wine there is truth)

  • Celestial Agriculture – Knowledge and Power in Alchemy
  • The Secret Fire of the alchemists (Il fuoco segreto degli alchimisti)
  • The Elxir of Long Life. Manual for an Alchemy of Health (L’elisir di lunga vita. Manuale di salute alchemica)

N.B. The books written by Marco Daffi, Giammaria and Auri are all not for profit and have been published without receiving any form of monetary compensation.

Books marked with an * have received the following recognitions:

* Awarded by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage
** Nomination by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage

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Gabriele d’Annunzio

An Excerpt from Actionism by Lennart Svensson


actionism svenssonGabriele d’Annunzio was something of a larger than life character. He was a person prompting the idea: “if he hadn’t existed, you would have to invent him.” He has been described as a fake superman, an operetta hero and a chauvinist. He wasn’t free from fault and he had a histrionic strain to him but in all, like Stelio Effrena, he didn’t pose.

Gabriele d’Annunzio was born 1863. The surname was originally Rapagnetta. The new surname seems to have something to do with nuncio, a Papal emissary. Already at age 15, d’Annunzio was an adroit poet who knew how to use the Italian language for vivid images and scenes. Novels, short stories and dramas followed. In a literary sense, d’Annunzio was a combination of Verner von Heidenstam (nationalist lyricist), Ernst Jünger (heroism) and Yukio Mishima (female portraits, drama).

d’Annunzio’s first novels were Il Piacere (1889), L’Innocente (1892) and Il Trionfo della Morte (1894). These bourgeois novels of manners express atheism and emptiness in a sometimes fascinating landscape of emotions and sensations, an aestheticism à la Wilde, Baudelaire, Huysmans and Poe. Then d’Annunzio discovered Nietzsche and this is reflected in the novel from 1895, Le Vergini delle rocce. Here the Italians got to learn a new word: superomismo, the doctrine of the superman (= il superuomo).

Then we had the last novel, The Flame of Life from 1900. As intimated, it portrays the young poet, Stelio Effrena, and his women: the older Foscarina and the younger Donatella. d’Annunzio, as an author, is blind to mysticism and esotericism, to the vertical, invisible dimension of life; however, works of art, ancient myth, shadow and light in the Venice lagoon and the emotional play between humans, this he can capture. You could say that d’Annunzio expresses himself clearly, often with brilliance and evocative power, and always with calm and dignity. Again it has to be stressed that the novel’s protagonist, Stelio Effrena, is an artist, a man touched by the Muses and free from anxiety, and such a figure isn’t so common in the history of modern literature.


– – –


d’Annunzio for a while was occupied as a politician. His rhetorical, impulsive nature was reflected in rousing speeches and party changes. He was a non-confessional radical conservative with a passion for Italy’s greatness during the Renaissance and antiquity.

In 1911, Italy launched its imperialist policies. The North African city of Tripolis was attacked and soon Italy had conquered the whole of Libya and Tunisia. This was the impetus for the 48-year-old d’Annunzio to change careers from both authorship and politics. He was thrilled by this revival of the Roman conquest policy, so he decided to become a warrior himself. Now, if not before, he trained to become a pilot.

But all wasn’t rosy in this adventurer’s life. A wasteful living, as befitted a Renaissance prince, forced d’Annunzio to flee the country. The period between the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 and Italy’s entry into the war in 1915, d’Annunzio spent in France. There, he visited the front and he liked what he saw. According to Combüchen (1995), he saw the cathedral of Reims in flames after an airstrike and this delighted him; he thought it was a beautiful sight. An aesthete’s approach to war indeed.

After lengthy internal discussions and negotiations with the two belligerents, in May 1915 Italy decided to join the war on the side of the Western Allies.  d’Annunzio was glad of this, having long been campaigning for an Italian war entry. On May 24, he celebrated the declaration of war at a tavern until dawn arrived. Then he said:

“Now, comrades, dawn is here. Time for goodbyes. So let’s embrace and say goodbye. What’s done is done. Now we have to go in separate directions – to rediscover each other. God will let us meet again, dead or alive, on fairer meadows.”

In the First World War, d’Annunzio participated as a submarine sailor, an army soldier and a fighter pilot.  Physically, he in no way lacked courage. As an aviator he performed a raid over Vienna. The goal was to drop propaganda leaflets. It happened in August 1918. Together with ten other planes, leaflets were dropped, written by d’Annunzio. They read:

On this August morning, while the fourth year of your desperate convulsion comes to an end and luminously begins the year of our full power, suddenly there appears the three-color wing as an indication of the destiny that is turning. Destiny turns. It turns towards us with an iron certainty. The hour of that Germany that thrashes you, and humiliates you, and infects you is now forever passed. Your hour is passed. As our faith was the strongest, behold how our will prevails and will prevail until the end. The victorious combatants of Piave, the victorious combatants of Marna feel it, they know it, with an ecstasy that multiplies the impetus. But if the impetus were not enough, the number would be; and this is said for those that try fighting ten against one. The Atlantic is a path already closing, and it’s an heroic path, as demonstrated by the new chasers who colored the Ourcq with German blood. On the wind of victory that rises from freedom’s rivers, we didn’t come except for the joy of the daring, we didn’t come except to prove what we could venture and do whenever we want, in an hour of our choice. The rumble of the young Italian wing does not sound like the one of the funereal bronze, in the morning sky. Nevertheless the joyful boldness suspends between Saint Stephen and the Graben an irrevocable sentence, o Viennese. Long live Italy!


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Vedic and Tantric Rituals – a Comparison

Alexander Jacob

Vedic and Tantric rituals – a comparisonWhen one considers the extraordinary cosmological and philosophical insights that inform the religions of the ancient world one cannot escape the conclusion that these insights could have been achieved only through divine revelation or through the exercise of such techniques of mind- and body control as developed by the various systems of Yoga. The probability that Yoga was indeed the source of this wisdom seems to be confirmed by the Brahmānda Purāna (I, i,3,8), for instance, and we note that, in the Mahābhārata, XIII (Anushāsana Parva) 14,[1] Shiva himself is constantly addressed as the “soul of yoga” and the object of all yogic meditation. Similarly, his son, Skanda (the god Muruga of the Dravidians) is described as being endowed with yogic powers in Mbh IX (Shalya Parva), 44.

As for the earliest religious forms of the ancient Indo-European wisdom, we note that, among the Krita Yuga avatārs of Vishnu listed in the Bhāgavata Purāna I,3,[2] Kapila (the name of the historical founder of Sāmkhya Yoga) precedes Yajna (representing Vedic sacrifice), who in turn precedes Rishabha (the name of the historical founder of Jainism). The avatārs of the Krita Yuga are of course cosmic phenomena rather than earthly, but the sequence of these names suggests that Sāmkhya-Yoga may indeed have preceded Vedic Brāhmanism, which in turn preceded Jainism. While the origins of Yoga and of Jainism and Brāhmanism are difficult to date since they locate their founders in the very remote Treta and Dvāpara Yugas, the Tantric religions associated with the temple-worship of the Hamitic[3] cultures that followed them are relatively easier to place since they flourish around the beginning of the Kali Yuga, which is traditionally fixed at the historical date of.3102 B.C.[4] – even though early temple cults are attested already in the sixth millennium B.C., in Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia.[5]

As regards Buddhism, which is the last of the ascetic, as opposed to sacrificing, sects, it must be noted that it too incorporated various Tantric rituals from the 7th century A.D. onwards especially in its Vajrayāna branch, which, unlike the Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna schools, emphasises the importance of ritual rather than mere meditation. Scholars such as A. Sanderson and S. Hatley have suggested that Tantric practices may have penetrated Buddhism already in the 5th century from Shaivaite sources.[6] The Manjushri Mūlakalpa text attributed to the Boddhisattva Manjushri of the Mahāyāna tradition, and dating from the 6th century A.D., is, for example, based on Shaiva as well as Vaishnava Tantric texts.

Jainism too adopted Tantric practices to a certain extent but mostly focused on the use of mantras and yantras rather than visualisation or meditation.[7] Jain Tantra, unlike Buddhist, does not aim at liberation but rather at achieving worldly gains such as health, wealth, and power. Nevertheless, it must be noted that the canonical scriptures of the Jains are called – exactly as in the Tantra tradition – Āgamas (inherited scriptures), and traced back by the Jains to the first tirthankara, Rishaba, though they were compiled by a certain Gautamaswami around the 6th or 4th century B.C. in Prākrit, rather than Sanskrit These Āgamas are said to be based on the discourses of the first tirthankara of the present era, Rishaba.

In all of the most ancient religions of the Āryan as well as of the Hamitic peoples of Mesopotamia and Egypt the understanding of the relation between the macrocosm and the microcosm may be traced back to a Yogic source. For instance, the Tantric Yogic notion of the Kundalini serpent and the awakening of this serpentine form to the light of Brahman lies at the basis of the Egyptian drama of Osiris in the underworld, as well as of the concept of the universal Tree of Life which features in the cosmologies of all the ancient Indo-European cultures. All of the ancient Indo-European religions are, furthermore, based on a vision of the Godhead as a Supreme Soul (Ātman) that manifests itself first as an Ideal and then as a Cosmic Man, or Purusha. This Purusha is castrated by his son (Chronos/Shiva/Time), though his seminal force is restored in our universe as the sun by a son of Chronos (Zeus/Dionysus/Muruga).[8] This Purusha, as we shall see, is the same as the Self of the human microcosm as well.

While the Purusha cosmology informs all the early religious forms of the Indo-Europeans, Brāhmanism, Zoroastrianism, and Tantra employ this mythology in their various rituals mostly in order to recover the divine dimensions of both the macrocosm and the microcosm. Sāmkhya-Yoga and the ascetic Shramana traditions following it, on the other hand, use it mostly as a theoretical background for ethical systems that seek to escape from cosmic manifestation and earthly incarnation altogether. In this focus on the escape from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth they take special care to stress the importance of the precept of non-dualism which was particularly crystallised in the Advaita Vedanta [Non-Dualistic Upanishadic] school of Indian philosophy associated with the sage Shankara (8th c. A.D.).

The aim of all enlightenment, whether it be through the fire-worship of the Āryans or the forms of worship evident in Tantra, is, however, the ultimate identification of the individual soul, ātman, with Brahman. The term “yoga” itself means “yoking” and may signify the union of the individual soul to the supreme which is brought about through several strict physiological and mental austerities. However, the means of achieving this end apparently varied with the changes in the ages, or yugas, that constitute our present epoch, kalpa. According to Manusmriti, I,86, the chief means of enlightenment in the first of the four ages was austerities:

In the Krita age the chief [virtue] is declared to be [performance of] austerities [tapas], in the Treta [divine] knowledge [jnānam], in the Dvapara [the performance of] sacrifices [yajnam], in the Kali liberality [dānam] alone.

We see that the Brāhmanical sacrifices are not, like yogic ‘tapas’ and ‘jnāna’, associated with the Krita Yuga or the Treta Yuga but only with the Dvāpara Yuga. It may be mentioned here that later Āgamic texts like the Tārapradīpa, Ch.1, state, contrary to the Manusmriti, that in the Satya (Krita) age Vaidika Upāsana [Vedic meditation] prevailed. In the Treta age, worship followed the Smriti prevailed. while in the Dvāpara there were both Smriti[9] and Purāna. Finally, in the Kaliyuga the Tantrika rather than the Vaidika Dharma has come to predominate. The Tantra Shastra was taught at the end of Dvāpara age and the beginning of Kaliyuga. However, we may assume that the meditation associated with the Krita age was indeed yogic meditation since we find the primacy of yogic worship over sacrificial maintained also in the Rigveda and the epics themselves. RV I,84,2, for instance, declares – regarding the forms of worship of the sages and the sacrifices offered by householders – that Indra attended ‘eulogies‘ sung by Rishis and ‘yajnas‘ conducted by humans. So it is apparent that Vedic sacrifices were necessary only for humans. In the MBh, VII (Anushāsana Parva), 16, too, Tandi, a sage of the Krita Yuga, is said to have “adored Shiva for 10,000 years with the aid of yogic meditation.

The “divine knowledge” (jnāna) mentioned in the Manusmriti as having prevailed in the following Treta Yuga may have been derived from the ascetic disciplines practised in the Krita Yuga. In the Treta Yuga, Manu himself is described in the MP as practising tapas, or austerities, on “Mt. Malaya”, but also as sacrificing (BP VIII,24). Manu, the survivor of the “flood” and the counterpart of Noah is also called Satyavrata, King of Dravida. In the Biblical account of the ‘deluge’, Noah is the counterpart of Manu and said to be a descendant of Adam’s son, Seth. That Noah represents the wisdom of Seth is evident from the Gnostic tradition.[10] Seth himself is described by Josephus as one who

strove after virtue and, being himself excellent, left descendants who imitated the same virtues. All of these, being virtuous, lived in happiness in the same land without civil strife, with nothing unpleasant coming upon them until after their death. And they discovered the science with regard to the heavenly bodies and their orderly arrangement.[11]

Josephus identifies the land of Seth as located around “Seiris”, which is also the land of Noah. In the Christian Opus Imperfectum in Matthaeum of Pseudo-Chrysostom, the books of Seth were supposed to have been hidden by Noah in the land of Šir, and the so-called “cave of treasures” in which they were hidden is identifiable with Mt. Ararat.[12] In Genesis 14:6, the Horites, or Hurrians, are particularly identified with Mt. Seir, and we note a close identification of the proto-Hurrians with the proto-Dravidians of BP, according to which Manu is King of Dravida. The brāhmans who are considered to be the “sons of Seth” must have originally constituted the priesthood of the proto-Hurrian/proto-Dravidian population,[13] though it is true that the Āryan (Indo-Iranian), and particularly Indo-Āryan, line deriving from this original population, as well as the modern Dravidians, seem to have retained the brāhmanical tradition best of all. As regards the identity of the proto-Dravidian race, we may resort to Lahovary’s description of the Mediterranean race, which he equated to the Dravidian, as being the original inhabitants of the ancient Near East “in its largest meaning”, that is, including “Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Caucasia, Persia, Mesopotamia with its extensions towards India, as well as Arabia and the African regions facing Arabia, i.e. from the Nile valley to the high tablelands of East Africa”.[14]

We have noted that all the accounts of the religious practice characteristic of the Krita Yuga declare it to have been marked by austerities and tapas, or internal heat. As for the practice of austerities themselves, the Rāmāyana, Uttara Kanda, Sec.87, states that only the Brāhmans practised austerities in the Krita Yuga. In the following Treta Yuga, Kshatriyas were born and, gaining equal spiritual dignity with the Brāhmans, practised austerities alongside them, while the Vaisyas and Shūdras served them. Then in the Dvāpara Yuga Vaisyas started to practise austerities as well, just as the Shūdras too began practising austerities in the Kali Yuga.

The statement in the Rāmāyana that these austerities were originally the privilege of Brāhmans contrasts with the general view that yajna was the typical custom of the Āryan Brāhmans. Sacrifices or yajna appears only in the Dvāpara Yuga, according to the Manusmriti, and were followed by Puranic beliefs and Tantric. However, some maintain that fire-worship began already in the Krita Yuga. Shriram Sharma, for instance, has suggested that “yajnas” were performed intensively already in the Krita Yuga:

The yajnas were … performed in the divine Krita Yuga, by the rishis [i.e. the seven sages] and the demigods since the demigods themselves were manifest on earth.[15]

These “yajnas” of the Krita Yuga performed by the seven sages and demigods may, however, have been different from the human fire-sacrifices which appeared after Manu Vaivasvata. Shriram Sharma[16] points out that “In comparison to what man attains via yajnas, great Rishis attain much more via sankalpa/ strength of resolve and eulogy to God (YV 17,28).” However, he suggests that “this power of eulogy was attained by the Rishis via fire worship (AV IV,23,5)”.[17] The Atharvavedic reference he gives represents Indra as being aided by Agni in his battle against the sources of resistance (Panis) which obstruct the rise of the solar force into our system. It is possible that both yoga and fire-worship may have originally developed from a focus on the thawing power of fire required to release the solar force in microcosm as well as macrocosm. In the former, it is manifest as the “heat” of yogic austerities or “tapas”. Fire-worship, on the other hand, is a more external dramatic recreation of the macrocosmic solar force.

It is interesting to note in this context that Pargiter suggested that Brāhmanism was originally a Dravidian religious institution and that it was considerably transformed by the Āryans. While the original Dravidian priesthood was characterised by the practice of yogic austerities (tapas) which gave them magical powers, the Āryan was preoccupied with the performance of sacrifices involving the worship of fire.[18] Pargiter may indeed have been right if he were referring to a ‘proto-Dravidian’, rather than a later Dravidian, source, for it is not improbable that the Brāhmanical and Tantric traditions may have been derived from a single proto-Dravidian/Noachidian source that split into fire-worshipping and Tantric temple-worshipping cultures.




The Vedas in their present form are primarily sacrificial liturgies aimed at restoring the creation to its ideal status as the Primordial Man. These sacrifices focus on the macrocosmic elements of the divine manifestation rather more than on the human microcosmic. The esoteric spiritual significance of the Vedas itself does not emerge in the predominantly liturgical Vedas so much as in the Upanishadic (Vedānta) literature, especially in the Yoga-based Upanishads derived largely from the Krishna and Shukla Yajur Vedas.[19]

Indeed, the Upanishads, and particularly the yoga-based ones, give a clear account of the actual spiritual basis of the identification of the individual self with the universal. The power of ‘tapas’ (fervour/heat) in the formation of the mind and the sense faculties in the macrocosm before the creation even of the gods is vividly depicted in AV XI,8:


3. Ten Gods before the Gods were born together in the ancient time.

Whoso may know them face to face may now pronounce the mighty word.

4. Inbreath and outbreath, eye and ear, decay and freedom from decay,

Spiration upward and diffused, voice, mind have brought us wish and plan.

5. As yet the Seasons were unborn, and Dhātar and Prajāpati,

Both Asvins, Indra, Agni. Whom then did they worship as supreme?

6. Fervour and Action were the two, in depths of the great billowy sea;

Fervour sprang up from Action: this they served and worshipped as supreme.


The descriptions of the Light of Brahman and the inner fire of the tapasvin [practictioner of austerities] in the yoga-based Upanishads provide further clues to the cosmic significance of the Vedic deities invoked during the fire-rituals of the Indo-Āryans. We may, for instance, recall the extraordinary description that is to be found in the yoga-based Mandalabrāhmana Upanishad, I of the different forms of primal light that the enlightened yogi is able to perceive:

In order to cross the ocean of samsara … one should adhere to the subtle path and overstepping tattva and other gunas should look out for Taraka. Taraka is Brahman which, being in the middle of the two eyebrows, is of the nature of the spiritual effulgence of Sachchidananda. The (spiritual) seeing through the three lakshyas (or the three kinds of introvision) is the means to It (Brahman). Sushumna which is from the muladhara to brahmarandhra has the radiance of the sun. In the centre of it is kundalini shining like crores of lightning and subtle as the thread in the lotus-stalk. Tamas is destroyed there … When the mind is fixed on it, it sees a blue light between the eyes as also in the heart. (This is antarlakshya or internal introvison). In the bahirlakshya (or external introvision) one sees in order before his nose at distance of 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 digits, the space of blue colour, then a colour resembling syama (indigo-black) and then shining as rakta (red) wave and then with the two pita (yellow and orange red) colours. Then he is a yogin. When one looks at the external space, moving the eyes and sees streaks of light at the corners of his eyes, then his vision can be made steady. When one sees jyotis (spiritual light) above his head 12 digits in length, then he attains the state of nectar. In the madhyalakshya (or the middle one), one sees the variegated colours of the morning As if the sun, the moon , and the fire had joined together in the Ukas that is without them. Then he comes to have their nature (of light). Through practice, he becomes one with akas, devoid of all gunas and peculiarities. At first akas with its shining stars becomes to him Para-akas as dark as tamas itself, and he becomes one with Paraakas shining with stars and deep as tamas. (Then) he becomes one with Maha-akas resplendent (as) with the fire of the deluge. Then he becomes one with Tattva-akas, lighted with the brightness which is the highest and the best of all. Then he becomes one with Surya-akas (sun-akas) brightened by a crore of suns. By practising thus, he becomes one with them. He who knows them becomes thus.

As regards the physiological constitution of the human microcosm, the Yogatattva Upanishad, for instance, specifies the parts of the human body governed by the several cosmic deities:

83b: There are five elements: Prithvi, Apas, Agni, Vāyu and Ākāsha.

84-87a: To the body of the five elements, there is the fivefold Dharana. From the feet to the knees is said to be the region of Prithvi

87b. The region of Apas is said to extend from the knees to the anus.

91. From the anus to the heart is said to be the region of Agni.

94b: From the heart to the middle of the eyebrows is said to be the region of Vāyu.

97-98. From the centre of the eyebrows to the top of the head is said to be the region of Ākāsha.

In the Brahma Upanishad, the macrocosmic Man, or Purusha, itself is revealed to be entirely concentrated within the human microcosm:

2: This being or Self is fully self-extended (into world-forms), he is the indwelling controller of things and beings, he is the Bird, the Crab, the Lotus, he is the Purusha, the Prana, the destroyer, the cause and the effect, the Brahman, the Atman, he is the Devata making everything known.

3: Now this Purusha has four seats, the navel, the heart, the throat and the head. In these shines forth the Brahman with four aspects: the state of wakefulness, of dream, of dreamless sleep, and the fourth or transcendent state.

21: The heart (i.e. the inner chamber of the heart) resembles the calyx of a lotus, full of cavities and also with its face turned downwards. Know that to be the great habitat of the whole universe.

22: Know the wakeful state to have for its centre the eyes; the dreaming state should be assigned to the throat; the state of dreamless sleep is in the heart; and the transcendent state is in the crown of the head.

The Katha Upanishad II,4,12, identifies the Purusha with the Self in the following manner: ‘The person (Purusha), of the size of a thumb, stands in the middle of the Self, as lord of the past and the future, and henceforward fears no more’. SB X,6,3,2 too understands the Purusha as the Self:

this golden Purusha in the heart [is] even as a smokeless light, it is greater than the sky, greater than the ether, greater than the earth, greater than all existing things;–that self of the spirit (breath) is my self: on passing away from hence I shall obtain that self.

The Garbha Upanishad outlines part of the yogic method to be employed in the realisation of the individual self as the Supreme Self or Purusha:

Through yoga, it should be brought from the middle of the eyebrows to the end of sushumnā (viz., the pineal gland), when he becomes the cognizer of the Real like the child in the womb. In the body of this nature, Āṭmā is latent and deathless and is the witness and Purusha. It lives in this body, being enveloped (by māyā). Prānī (or the jīva having prāna) has abhimāna (identification with the body) on account of avidyā. Ajñāna [ignorance] which surrounds it is the seed; the antahkarana (internal organ) is the sprout and the body is the tree.

The jīva or personal ego is deluded by the illusory power of māya into thinking that it is identical to the body and it is this error that is sought to be corrected through yoga. By contemplating the Yajna Purusha as the Supreme Soul, Ātman, however, we may acquire the cosmic consciousness of Brahman. The identification of the individual ātman with Brahman is the same as the attainment of the abode of the Purusha/Vishnu, which is informed by Brahman, and hence equal to Brahmaloka, from which one is not reborn. As Biardeau explains,

il y a une hiérarchie de plans qui va des organes sensoriels au Purusa suprême, nommé … Visnu … L’atman est au-delà de l’ego limitateur et fait accéder à un stade où le Réel est non manifesté, l’atman lui-même se trouvant absorbé dans ce Réel informe avant d’accéder au Purusa Visnu, en qui il trouve la délivrance finale.[20]




The esoteric significance of the various components of the Vedic fire-rituals is explained in detail in the Upanishads. The ‘Vaishvānara Vidya (knowledge of the soul of the universe)’ at the conclusion of Ch.V of the Chāndogya Upanishad points to the different forms of the divine Soul in the individual body as well as in the All (Vaishvānara). Of particular interest is the association of the heart, mind and mouth with the three sacrificial fires of the Āryans:

Of that Vaisvânara Self the head is Sutegas (having good light),[21] the eye Visvarûpa (multiform),[22] the breath Prithagvartman (having various courses),[23] the trunk Bahula (full),[24] the bladder Rayi (wealth),[25] the feet the earth,[26] the chest the altar, the hairs the grass on the altar, the heart the Gârhapatya fire, the mind the Anvâhârya fire, the mouth the Âhavanîya fire.

The Vaishvānara, however, is the same as the Purusha within the human soul “as a span long and as identical with [oneself]” (V,18,1).

Indeed, the Vedic texts reveal a more than scientific understanding both of the several forms of heat that pervade the human microcosm and of the different parts of the flames of external fire. The metaphysical significance of the fire-rituals is detailed in the Panchāgni Vidya of the Chāndogya Upanishad, V,4ff, which identifies the five spiritual fires within the macrocosm (heaven, the atmosphere, and earth) and the macrocosm (man and woman). Such an understanding is clearly due to the supernatural yogic discipline that informed the original religion of the brāhmans and identifies them not just as wise men but indeed as “magicians”. This is, of course, the reason why the term “magi” used for their Iranian counterparts has long been equated with “magicians”.

The Prānāgnihotra Upanishad similarly mentions five fires, four of which are within the human body:

19.The fire of the sun in the form of the solar disk whence millions of rays are diffused is found in the head corresponding to the Ekarshi fire.

The fire of vision is found … in the mouth corresponding to the Ahavaniya fire.

The gastric fire which supports the digestive function is found … in the heart, corresponding to the Dakshinagni.

Then there is the intestinal fire which cooks that which has been eaten, drunk, licked and masticated and is found towards the navel, corresponding to the Garhapatya fire.

20. Finally, there is the expiatory fire which is found under [the navel] and shares with it the three principal nadis (ida, pingala, and sushumna) as its common spouses and activates the process of procreation by means of the lunar light which circulates through them.

The Panchāgni-vidya includes not only knowledge of the fires within the body but also that of the different intensities within the flames of fire. According to the Mundaka Upanishad (I,2,4), Agni contains seven flames, Kâlî (black), Karâlî (terrific), Manogavâ (swift as thought), Sulohitâ (crimson), Sudhûmravarnâ (purple), Sphulinginî (sparkling), and brilliant Visvarûpî (having all forms), which, like the sun-rays bear the sacrificer to the world of the gods.  Agni is thus the vital link between Heaven and Earth. Within the body itself the ancients identify the following fires:

Durgarshatā = bodily strength

Jyoti = aura

Tāpa = body temperature

Pāka = digestive fire

Prakash = wisdom

Shauch = fire that destroys bodily dirt

Rāg = fire that possesses magnetic attraction

Laghu =fire that makes the body light

Taishnya = fire that raises the mental powers

Urdhwagaman = fire that joins the mental powers to the divine powers (demigods)

As Shriram Sharma points out,[27] these ten qualities and functions of fire are related to the five prānas and five sub-prānas of the body.

The Garbha Upanishad mentions three forms of fire within the human body, koshta agni, darshana agni and gnāna agni, relating to digestion, sight, and knowledge. These are located in the stomach, face, and heart respectively and correspond to the three fires, gārhaptniyāgni, āhavaniyāgni and dakshināgni, in the fire-ritual:

And of how many kinds is that agni? It has three bodies, three retas (seeds or progeny), three puras (cities), three dhātus, and three kinds of agni threefold. Of these three, Vaiśvānara is bodiless. And that agni becomes (or is subdivided into) Jñānāgni (wisdom-fire), Darśanāgni (eye-fire), and Koshthāgni (digestive fire). Of these Jñānāgni pertains to the mind; Darśanāgni pertains to the senses; and Koshthāgni pertains to dahara and daily cooks (or digests) equally whatever is eaten, drunk, licked, or sucked through prāna and apāna. Darśanāgni is (in) the eye itself and is the cause of vijñāna and enables one to see all objects of form. It has three seats, the (spiritual) eye itself being the (primary) seat, and the eyeballs being the accessory seats.

This Upanishad also describes in great detail the internal heat within the human body in terms of an internal fire-ritual:

Dakshināgni is in the heart, Gārhapaṭya is in the belly, and in the face is Āhavanīya. (In this sacrifice with the three agnis), the Purusha is himself the sacrificer; buddhi becomes his wife; santosha (contentment) becomes the dīkshā (vow) taken; the mind and the organs of the senses become the sacrificial vessels; the karmendriyas (organs of action) are the sacrificial instruments. In this sacrifice of the body, the several devas who become the rtvijas (sacrificial priests) perform their parts following the master of the sacrifice, (viz., the true individuality), wherever he goes. In this (sacrifice), the body is the sacrificial place, the skull of the head is the fire-pit, the hairs are the kuśa grass; the mouth is the antarvedi (raised platform in sacrifice); kāma (or passion) is the clarified butter; the period of life is the period of sacrifice; nāda (sound) produced in dahara (heart) is the sāmaveda (recited during the sacrifice); vaikharī is the yajus (or yajurveḍa hymns); parā, paśyanti, and madhyamā are the rks (or rgveḍa hymns); cruel words are the atharvas (atharvaveda hymns) and khilas (supplementary texts of each veḍa); true words are the vyāhrtis. Life, strength, and bile are the paśus (sacrificial creatures) and death is avabhrta (the bath which concludes the sacrifice). In this sacrifice, the (three) fires blaze up and then according to (the desires of) the worldly the devas bless him.

We see therefore that the fire rituals of the Āryans involve magical evocations of the macrocosmic fire through manipulation of the fire within the ritual-altar (represented by the three sacred fires) and that within the human microcosm. These rituals serve to sustain the entire cosmos as well as the sacrificer, who, guided by the brahman priest, becomes identified with the solar force, Brahman.




We may briefly compare here the Zoroastrian understanding of and reverence for the sacred fire, Atar, which is symbolic of Ahura Mazda himself and of the Truth. The Greater Bundahishn I,a describes the process whereby Ahura Mazda manifests himself materially. First, he draws forth, from his own Endless Light, Fire, and then Ether (the Sky) out of Fire, Water out of Ether, and Earth out of Water. Then he produces “the Tree” (which corresponds to the Tree of Life representing our universe), followed by “the Beneficent Animal” (the Cow) and “the Holy Man” (Gayomaretan/the First Man). The Fire derived from the Endless Light is called Khvarag (4).

In the Greater Bundahishn Ch.XVIII and the Lesser Bundahishn Ch.XVII, mention is made of five fires, the Berezi-savang, Vohufryan, Urvazisht, Vazisht (one of the sages in the Indian tradition), and Spenisht. The Berezi-savang is “the fire which glitters before Ohrmazd the Lord”. The fire Spenisht is that which is lit in the material world. The Vohufryan is “that which is in the bodies of men and animals”, the Urvazisht is that which is in plants, and Vazisht that which is in clouds. Of Spenisht, the three principal fires are Farnbag, Gushnasp and Burzin Mihr. Descriptions of the various fires worshipped by the Zoroastrians are given also in the Greater Bundahishn, Ch. VIG, where the fire Vasisht is said to facilitate the production of rain, and the fires Farnbag, Gushpasp and Burzin Mihr the protection of the world and the preservation of the creatures. Other fires such as those within the plants, men and beneficent animals maintain and increase the life of these species.

The Greater Bundahishn Ch.XVIII also provides an account of the fires Burzen Mihr, Adar Gushnasp and Farnbag. Of these, the fire Farnbag is considered to be the “athravan” (priest) of the fires, the fire Gushnasp the warrior, and the fire Birzin Mihr the husbandman. “They are the protectors of the world until the renovation of the universe” (17). Thus Farnbag has the ritualistic eminence of Agni as the brāhmanical god among the Indo-Āryans. He is assisted by the two other fires, representing the warrior and the peasant, in his protection of the world.

Regarding the kinds of fire-rituals practised by the Zoroastrians, the Avesta mentions three consecrated fires, a house-hold fire, a communal fire and a national. The ritual employing the domestic hearth fire, called Ātash Dādgāh, is the lowest, for this fire is turned into a more significant cult fire by putting it in an appropriate place, i.e. a fire-temple. The fire room in the temple was itself constructed in the form of a dome recalling the dome of heaven.[28] The Avesta (Yasna 62,5) values most of all the national fire, the Ātash Bahram, the fire of victory. This was the cult fire of the royal house of the Sassanians. The king himself is believed to be endowed with khvarena, the sacred victory-giving glory that is dispensed by Mithra.[29] The consecration of the Atash Bahram is conducted with a collection of the sixteen fires mentioned in the Vendidad, Ch.8. The hymns used for its consecration are mostly directed to Srosh, the assistant of Mithra[30] and the guardian of all that is pure and sacred in the world. The sacred fire of the second grade is called Ātash Adarān, meaning fire of [different] fires, i.e. taken from the embers of the hearth fires of the various castes, priests, warriors, farmers, and artisans.

We see that the primary focus in Zoroastrian fire-worship is on the external and macrocosmic forms of fire. There is little yogic understanding of the internal thermal energies that inform the human microcosm. However, Grether, who has attempted to demonstrate the close resemblances between the Tantric homa and the Zoroastrian fire-rituals, points out that, at least in the case of the Zoroastrian chief priest, there is a clear correlation between the deity and the fire.[31] The Lord of Wisdom is believed to be present in the form of fire as well as in the body of the priest. Thus the Zoroastrian priest’s role is that of a representative of the Lord of Wisdom, of Ahura Mazda, who has become visible to the worshippers in the form of the ritual fire.




When we turn to the fire-rituals that were conducted within the Tantric tradition we find that they reflect a more pristine system of ritual practice than even the Indo-Āryan Vedic fire-rituals. As Grether has pointed out,

None of the elements common to homa are exclusively Vedic. However, all of the quintessential portions—structure and efficacy—do have parallels in the Iranian cultural paradigm.  Therefore, tantric homa rites are more properly characterized as Indo-Iranian in origin.[32]

As she suggests, ’the ritual efficacy common to all homa rites can be found in the Central Asian culture dating back to the pre-Vedic period but re-articulated in the tantric period.’ Further, Biardeau too has pointed out that “le ‘sacrifiant’ du culte agamique – qui est toujours, par la force des choses, un notable, au moins local – se rapproche ainsi beaucoup plus au roi que du maître de maison ordinaire”.[33] This suggests that the Tantric sacrifices retain the public significance of the early sacred rituals of the Indo-Iranians rather more than the rituals of the later Vedic Āryans, which tended to be more domestic, and exclusive, affairs.

However, it is not likely that the original sacrificial rituals of the Tantric or the Vedic Indians were derived directly from those of the Iranians. The Iranians are represented in Herodotus as worshipping the “circle of heaven” (Ahura, from Ashur/Anshar=circle of heaven) as well as the heavenly bodies. The incantation that the priest utters during the animal sacrifice is supposed to evoke the creation of the heavenly bodies. The Iranians discussed by Herodotus, however, did not build temples or worship statuary representations of their deities (I,131), and this emphasises their ancient affiliation with the Scythians, while the Mitanni- and the Hittite-Hurrians, however, were certainly not averse to such representations.

Besides, the Iranian rituals are described by Herodotus as not involving fire, even though the later Zoroastrian religion – like the Indic – is indeed typified by its worship of fire, Atar. More recently Mary Boyce has pointed out that “no actual ruins of a fire temple have been identified from before the Parthian period [i.e. before the 3rd c. B.C.]”.[34] This suggests once again that the Iranians, like their Mitanni kinsmen, must have come into contact in the south with the Purūruva Ailas [Elamites/Hurrians], who, as we shall see, derived their worship of fire from the Gandharvas, or the inhabitants of the Gandhara Grave culture (ca. 1700-1400 B.C.), which followed the Bactro-Margiana Archaeological Complex (ca. 2200-1700 B.C.).[35] Indeed the Iranians seem originally to have been nomadic peoples, as is attested by the imagery of the Old Avesta, wherein the cosmos is viewed as an enormous tent.[36]

The relatives of the Iranians, the ancient Scythians, too do not exhibit any developed form of religious worship that may ascribed to yogic understanding. The royal hearth was the most sacred place in the Scythian domain and solemn oaths were sworn there (Herodotus IV,68). This may be related to the veneration of the Royal Fire, the Ātash Bahram, among the Iranians.[37] When the king died, the royal funeral cortege travelled throughout the Scythian kingdom for forty days in order to receive the homage of the people, some of whom even mutilated themselves in partial self-sacrifice.

Other practices that link the Scythians to the Indo-Iranians is their custom of soma-drinking which accounts for their ancient designation as “hoamavarga”, or “soma-drinking”, Scythians. However, Eliade’s researches in Central Asian shamanism, which may be a vestige of ancient Scythian religious practice, point to a rather rudimentary practical application of the spiritual basis of the cosmological religion of the ancients in the shamanistic rituals.[38] The use of intoxicants for the acquisition of transcendental states is, according to Eliade, a relatively inferior path in comparison to the inner spiritual discipline advocated by yoga,[39] and the reduction of yogic knowledge to ecstatic flights among the shamans is an indication of a certain degeneration of the wisdom of the ancient Near East in its transmission to the north. As Eliade pointed out, let us emphasize once again the structural difference that distinguishes classic Yoga from shamanism. Although the latter is not without certain techniques of concentration, … its final goal is always ecstasy and the soul’s ecstatic journey through the various cosmic regions, whereas Yoga pursues entasis, final concentration on the spirit and “escape” from the cosmos.[40]

To discern the original tradition of the Indo-Iranians from whom the Tantric, Vedic, and Zoroastrian rituals were all derived, we may turn once again to the Indic Purānas, where we find that Purūravas, the early Aila [=Elamite?] king, is said to have obtained sacrificial fire from the “Gandharvas”, who also taught him the constitution of the three sacred fires of the Āryans.[41] Purūravas is stated in the Puranas to be an Aila king of Pratishthana, Aila itself designating a descendant of Ila, the offspring of Manu and originator of the Lunar dynasty of kshatriyas, while Manu’s son, Ikshvāku is the author of the Solar dynasty. The Ailas are designated as Karddameyas, which relates them to the river Karddama in Iran, particularly in the region of Balkh.[42] The kshatriya ruler of the lunar dynasty, Pururavas, is, according to the Bhavishya Purāna, Pratisarg 3, the son of Budh, the son of the Moon, Chandra,[43] who himself was the son of the sage Atri born of Brahma. The rise of both Chandra and Purūravas is dated to the Treta Yuga. Fire-worship was thus perhaps not universal among the earliest Āryan tribes. The fact that the Purūravas are said to have learnt the fire-rituals from the Gandharvas suggests that the early Hurrians of Elam and the earliest Iranians did not worship fire and learnt it from another group of Āryans who must have, at a very early date, moved eastwards from their Anatolian/Armenian homeland. However, even the Gandharas are included among the Aila [=Elamite?] dynasties in the Purānas, which suggests that these Āryans too were a branch of the original Noachidian family that we have called proto-Dravidian/Hurrian.




Given the intimate relationship between Yoga, Upanishadic Brāhmanism and Tantra and the reference in Manusmriti, I,86, to the fact that austerities marked by tapas preceded the development of fire-rituals, it is important to descry the relations between the Vedic and Tantric rituals. That Tantra is closely related to Brāhmanism is clear from the many similarities in their respective ritual practices. In fact, even the apparently unorthodox practices of the Shaiva Tantric Kaula [non-dualistic but liberal] sect are a practical application of Advaita Vedic knowledge, as Woodroffe pointed out:

The Kularnava (III. 113) says that there is no knowledge higher than that of Veda and no doctrine equal to KaulaHere a distinction is drawn between Veda which is Vidya and the Kaula teaching which he calls Darshana [school of philosophy].[44]

Ch.29 of Abhināvagupta’s Tantraloka details the ‘kula prakriya’ rite as involving the unorthodox consumption of meat, alcohol, fish and the performance of ritual sex.[45] However, as Flood points out, the Brihadāranyaka Upanishad (IV,3,21) too describes the realisation of the self as the Absolute in sexual terms, while the Chāndogya Upanishad (II,13,1-2) identifies Vedic recitation itself with the sexual act.[46] Yael Bentor has also recently noted that

The brahmanas and upanisads contain various passages linking the fire offering to sexual intercourse and conception.~~ The milk offered into the fire has been related to semen and the boiling of the milk to orgasm … Also, the kindling of the fire from the friction of the two fire sticks (arani) is correlated to sexual intercourse.[47]

Those who have studied Vedic sacrifical rituals will also remember the dramatic performance of copulation between the king’s wife and the dead horse in the Ashvamedha sacrifice and may reasonably suppose this to have been a part of the original Purushamedha (human sacrifice) as well. As Brajalal Mukherji also explained,

All Vedic yajnas are based on the idea that Maithunikarana (coitus) leads to spiritual happiness. Sexual intercourse is Agnihotra (SB XI, 6,2,10). Maithunakarana is consecration (SB III, 2,1,2, etc.) … [Yajnas] direct the observance and performance of Maithuna as a religious rite or part of a religious rite … and they direct that Mantras are to be uttered during the observance of this rite.[48]

What is interesting is that many of the other aspects of Tantric ritual also have counterparts in Vedic ritual. Mukherji highlighted similarities between the divinisation rituals of the Āgamic tradition and some of the Vedic rituals:

The worship in both Vaidik and Tantrik rites begins with Acamana, which is a form of ablution in which certains parts of the body are touched with water ….  They purify themselves by uttering some Mantras as Bijas while contemplating the Deities of certain parts of their bodies and touching such parts with their fingers … They make use of certain sounds for removing unclean spirits, e.g., Khat, Phat, Hum … They attribute a Deity to each letter in a Mantra … They make gestures with their fingers as part of their religious rites … and locate the Devatas of particular sounds in particular parts of their bodies … [49]

However, a closer study of the Vedic and Tantric rituals will reveal certain significant differences between them. We may for the purpose of such a comparison consider the Tantric fire rituals or ’homa’ sacrifices performed by both the Indians and the Asiatic Buddhists who adopted these Indian rituals in Tibet and the Orient. The primal deity in the homa is indeed the god of fire, Agni. The Tantric Shaiva Siddhānta sacrificial ritual envisages a symbolic birth of the deity into the ritual enclosure. As Richard Payne has pointed out,

This involves the full range of sexual imagery, that is, impregnation, gestation, and birth, as well as the other rituals of childhood: Two deities (identified as Brahmā and Sarasvati) are installed in the hearth altar, and burning coals identified as Śiva’s semen are then poured in while the practitioner visualizes the act of impregnation. By these ritual actions, Agni is born as the ritual fire in the hearth-altar.[50]

The identification of the forms of Agni, or Agni Vaishvanara, with the three sacrificial fires used in the Kālachakra Tantric rituals of Vajrayāna Buddhism – just as they are in the Vedic – has been noted by Vesna Wallace:

The first is the southern fire (dakshinagni), identified with lightning that resides in a bow-shaped firepit in the heart cakra. The second is the domestic fire (garhyapatya), which is identified with the sun that dwells in a circular firepit within the throat cakra; the third is the consecrated fire taken from the perpetual domestic fire (ahavaniya), or the flesh-consuming fire (kravyada), which is located in a quadrangular firepit within the navel cakra. Above these three fires, at the edge of darkness, where neither the light of lightning, the sun, the moon, or the planets shine, there is an additional fire, the fire of gnosis (jnanagni). This fourth fire is of the nature of joy (ananda) located in the secret and forehead cakras, and it has been there since beginningless time.[51]

We see that the sacrificial fires are simultaneously identified with the thermal energies located within the chakras of the human body. The internal homa of the Tantric Tibetans is even more illustrative of the movement of Agni or termal energy within the chakras of the human body in such a way that the practitioner transforms his sexual energy into a source of enlightenment. For example, in the Tibetan yoga of the subtle body (linga sharīra),

inner heat (gtum-mo) is generated in the navel (or in the junction of the central channel with the ro-ma and rkyang-ma below the navel) and blazes up through the central channel. As a result of the bodhicitta, the white drop located at the head’s center, melts and meets with the red drop, the gtum-mo fire. The practice culminates in the realization of supreme nondual enlightened wisdom.[52]

In Tantric worship, the virtual creation of Agni in the fire-altar and the worship of Agni through oblations and entreaties are accompanied by the divinisation of the priest. This aspect of Tantric worship will be observed also in the adjunct to the homa, the pūja, where the sādhaka is divinised before he can venerate the deity manifest in temple idols. The fire that is created in the fire-altar is in fact created by the priest from within his own heart. This is evident especially in the Kālachakra Tantra rituals studied by Vesna Wallace.[53] Grether too has noted that

Vedic priests may identify parts of their bodies with a variety of gods, but “there is no unified nor even consistent parallel of worshipper and god” …  Tantric rites, on the other hand, tend to focus on a direct correlation between a singular divine being — who becomes present in the fire — and the worshipper.[54]

Thus we may agree with Bentor thatTantric rituals, external rituals included, are in fact ritualized meditations’.[55] Indeed, the entire office of the brahman priest in the Vedic ritual stresses the internal signficance of the external fire-rituals:

The role of the brahman priest in vedic rituals also points to the importance of the mental aspect in outer vedic sacrifices. While the other priests, such as the adhvaryu and hotr, perform the ritual actions and recite, the brahman follows the ritual mentally. Whenever an error in the performance occurs he corrects it not by ritual actions, but through his mental powers.[56]

Heesterman’s conjecture that yogic asceticism was an “internalisation” of the Vedic sacrifices is thus clearly inaccurate in its suggestion of the priority of sacrifice.[57] The fire-rituals of the brāhmans may more likely have been an externalisation of the thermal disciplines of yoga since the Rgveda (X,154,2) itself mentions [yogic] tapas as that by which “one attains the light of the sun”.

As regards the use of mantras in these various rituals, Grether points out that the recitation of Vedic mantras merely narrates the defeat of evil while the tantric mantras, on the other hand, actually effect the destruction. Another indication that the Vedic fire-rituals were not prior to yogic practices among the earliest Indo-Europeans is that the implements used in the latter often have a sexual significance, as when the ladle symbolises a penis and the hearth a vagina. This significance is derived from Tantric symbolism, as Wheelock reminds us:

[In the Tantric ritual] not only the worshipper is made identical to the central deity … but all of the components of the ritual as well.[58]

Wheelock also notes that, in the system of correspondences between the external objects of the ritual and their cosmic referents, the Vedic  practice is not so comprehensive as the Tantric:

the transformations of objects in the Vedic ritual arena does not generate a precisely ordered mandala that replicates the divine powers in a one-to-one fashion. Rather, one finds a more variegated and constantly changing amalgam of divine resonances.[59]


The Tantric ritual in an even more systematic fashion transforms a mundane setting into a precisely and minutely conceived replica of a sacred cosmos. The purification and cosmicisation of ritual components covers everything from the individual worshipper (sadhaka), whose body becomes an image of the deity in both transcendent and manifest form, to the altar on which the offerings are made, which is changed into a mandala housing the entire retinue of divine beings, the manifold body  of the supreme deity.




The imprecision in the correspondences noted above is further highlighted by a comparison of the Tantric ‘puja’, which is, apart from ‘homa’, the other common form of Tantric worship, with the Vedic fire-ritual. As Wheelock states:

One noteworthy difference from the Tantric ritual is that the Vedic priest … identifies parts of his body with parts of a variety of different gods. There is no unified nor even consistent parallel of worshipper and god.[60]

In the ‘puja‘, on the other hand, there proceeds a process of divinisation of the worshipper that follows a series of steps that steadily recall the macrocosmic dimensions of the human microcosm. These steps have been well studied by Wheelock,[61] whom I shall cite here. The first step is ‘bhūtashuddhi’:

Bhutashuddhi, as the name implies (purification of the elements) involves visualising the refining of the worshipper’s own body by a process inwardly re-enacting the destruction of the cosmos and the reabsorption of the basic elements into primal, undifferentiated matter … With some variation in different texts, the worshipper proceeds to visualise the cosmic fire being extinguished with earth and the resultiing ashes finally being washed away with wáter, completing the process of purification.

Bhūtashuddhi is followed by the recreation of the worshipper’s body, now as an image of the cosmos. This is accomplished through the process of ‘nyāsa’ (placing):

Like bhutashuddhi, nyāsa involves the use of nonsentence mantras but with an accompanying physical act, touching various parts of the body. The mantras, in effect, are applied to the body manually. Two basic types of mantras are used. First, the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are placed in order on different parts of the body (matrka-nyasa) providing the worshipper’s body with the fifty basic elements of the Tantric cosmogony.

Next, a series of essentially reverential mantras are offered to the parts of the  body (anga-nyāsa)

to consecrate them as implicity identical to those of the supreme deity. The mantras of the anga-nyasa then transmute the purified body of the worshipper into the fully manifest form of the supreme deity.

The entire Tantric ritual is thus viewed ‘as god offering worship to god’.

In the idol-worship section of Tantra, the liturgy begins with  invocation of the deity and moves to providing the deity with a detailed manifest form.[62] This begins with ‘the establishment of the life breaths in the image (yantra, statue) that the invoked deity has just entered.  This is the rite of ‘prāna pratishtha’. However, as Wheelock points out:

the deity is not descending from the distant heaven of the Vedic cosmology but is drawn out from the very heart of the worshipper and asked to become manifest in some concrete object in the ritual- For example, Siva is invoked into the temple’s lingam.

In the deity’s acquisition of a manifest form the worship of the limbs of the divine body is conducted using a set of mantras employed in the Tantric worshipper’s rite of nyāsa. As with the rite of nyāsa, the point of these mantras is to identify parts of the mandala with parts of the deity’s body. This focus on the physical aspect of the deity is different from the Vedic ritual, as Wheelock points out:

that an important part of the homage expressed in the Tantric puja concerns the physical traits of the deity. This is certainly not the case in the Vedic ritual, where one mentions the deeds and functions of the god with almost no mention of his physical appearance.

Further, the fact that the idol-worship prescribed as part of Tantric worship corresponds closely to the original yogic meditation is made clear in the description of such worship in the Mandalabrāhmana Upanishad II:

Not being troubled by any thoughts (of the world) then constitutes the ḍhyāna. The abandoning of all karmas constitutes āvāhana (invocation of god). Being firm in the unshaken (spiritual) wisdom constitutes āsana (posture). Being in the state of unmanī constitutes the pāḍya (offering of water for washing the feet of god). Preserving the state of amanaska (when manas is offered as sacrifice) constitutes the arghya (offering of water as oblation generally). Being in state of eternal brightness and shoreless nectar constitutes snāna (bathing). The contemplation of Āṭmā as present in all constitutes (the application to the idol of) sandal. The remaining in the real state of the ḍṛk (spiritual eye) is (the worshipping with) akshaṭa;(non-broken rice). The attaining of Chiṭ (consciousness) is (the worshipping with) flower. The real state of agni (fire) of Chiṭ is the ḍhūpa (burning of incense). The state of the sun of Chiṭ is the ḍīpa (light waved before the image). The union of oneself with the nectar of full moon is the naivēḍya (offering of food, etc.). The immobility in that state (of the ego being one with all) is praḍakshiṇa (going round the image). The conception of ‘I am He’ is namaskāra (prostration). The silence (then) is the sṭuṭi (praise). The all-contentment (or serenity then) is the visarjana (giving leave to god or finishing worship). (This is the worship of Āṭmā by all Raja-yogins). He who knows this knows all.

Another index of the original quality of Tantric ritual is the importance of mantras in it. Every god is indeed represented by a ‘bīja’ or seminal mantra which embodies the essence of the god. Thus the syllable ‘ram’ betokens Agni, ‘dam’ Vishnu, ‘horum’ Shiva, etc. A connected series of bīja mantras in the form of a mūla, or root, mantra of the deity is used in the climactic rite of ‘japa’ at the end of the pūja in such a way that the multiple repetitions of the mūla-mantra serve as a means of producing a concrete sonic manifestation of the deity. As Wheelock points out:

In the Tantric ritual] the deity becomes manifest as the world first by taking on Sonic form, the concrete objects or referents (artha) of those primordial words following afterward in the course of cosmic evolution.

In contrast,

the orthodox formulation of the Vedic tradition, the Purva-Mimamsa, virtually ignores mantras. Its key task is to determine a valid means (pramana) for ascertaining dharma … Only the set of explicit injunctions to action (vidhi) found in the brahmana section of sruti are to be counted as relevant to defining dharma.




We see therefore that Tantric worship is much more detailed in its divinisation of the worshipper than the Vedic. Tantric Āgama indeed considers the universe as a whole whose every single part bears an influence on the others. Thus a system of sympathetic magic was developed out of it in which the final aim of the spiritual adept (sādhaka) is to transform, within his consciousness, his own person as well as cult-objects and rites into that which these phenomena essentially are. And the ultimate aim of Tantra, called ‘siddhi’ or spiritual perfection, is a practical realisation of the Upanishadic equation of the individual ātman with Brahman (“tat tvam asi”/that art thou).

Thus it is not surprising that, although drawing on the Vedic tradition, Āgama claims to supersede it. As Flood points out, “The mainstream tantric texts of the Pancharatra and Shaiva Siddhanta maintain a close proximity to the vedic tradition and prescribe a whole way of life that incorporates vedic rites of passage [samskaras] … along with the supererogatory tantric rites of their tradition”.[63] Kulluka Bhatta, the celebrated commentator on Manu, for instance, says that Shruti is of two kinds, Vaidik and Tantrik, while the Niruttara Tantra also calls Tantra the Fifth Veda.

We have noted that the Vedic fire-rituals do not exhibit the correspondences between the elements of the external altar and the thermal energies within the body so closely as the Tantric homa rituals do. The sexual connotations of the fire-ritual also point to the fact that the latter was an externalisation of the yogic understanding of the forces within the chakras of the human body rather than vice-versa. Besides, the Tantric homa as practised by certain Tibetan Buddhists display a greater understanding of the internal sexual transformations that are meant to take place in the sacrificer during a fire-ritual. The divinisation process detailed in Tantric pūjas also demonstrates a stricter adherence to the yogic mode of transcendence through the chakras than the temporary elevation of the sacrificer with the help of the officiating priests in the Vedic ritual does. Finally, the utilisation of mantras in the Vedic rituals is less forceful than in the Tantric, where the chanting effectively reproduces the primal sonic aspect of the divine creation.

Given the complexity of the rituals whereby the Tantric priest and worshipper transform their human forms as well as those of idols into divine ones, employing the fires within themselves as well as without, it would appear that the Tantric rituals of India – as well as those of the other idol-worshipping cultures of Mesopotamia and Egypt[64] – are indeed closer to the original yogic wisdom of the proto-Dravidian/Hurrian family of Manu/Noah than the Vedic or Zoroastrian fire-rituals are.


[1] Cf. MBh VII (Drona Parva), 202, where Shiva is called Yoga and the Lord of Yoga (Yogeshvara).

[2] According to BP I,3, there are twenty-two avatārs of Vishnu, beginning with

[Krita Yuga] Chatursana (the four sons of Brahma), the boar Varāha, Nārada, Nara-Nārāyana, Kapila, Dattatreya, Yajna, Rishabha,

[Treta Yuga] the fish Matsya, the tortoise Kūrma, Dhanvantari, Mohini, Narasimha, Vāmana, Parashurāma, Vyāsa, Rāma,

[Dvāpara Yuga] Balarāma, Krishna,

[Kali Yuga] the Buddha, Kalki.

[3] The Hamitic civilisations would include those of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Dravidian India.

[4] This is the calculation of the early (ca. 6th c. A.D.) astronomical treatise, Sūrya Siddhānta.

[5] See H. Frankfort, Archaeology and the Sumerian Problem, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1932, p.19.

[6] See, for instance, S. Hatley, “Converting the Dākini: Goddess Cults and Tantras of the Yoginis between Buddhism and Saivism” in Tantric Traditions in Transmission and Translation, (ed.) D.B. Gray and R.R. Overbey, N.Y., NY: Oxford University Press, 2016, Ch.2.

[7] See John E. Cort, ‘Worship of Bell-Ears the Great Hero, a Jain Tantric Deity’, in D.G. White (ed.), Tantra

 in Practice, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000, p.417.

[8] For a full discussion of this cosmology see A. Jacob, Ātman: A Reconstruction of the Solar Cosmology of

the Indo-Europeans, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2005, and A. Jacob, Brahman: A Study of the Solar Rituals of the

Indo-Europeans, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2012.

[9] “Smriti” (=remembered wisdom) refers principally to the epics and the Dharmasūtras.

[10] See G.G. Stroumsa, Another Seed: Studies in Gnostic Mythology, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1984, p.107. Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities, I, 70-71 also makes clear the association of the line of Seth with cosmological learning.

[11] See Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, I:70-1.

[12] See G.G. Stroumsa, op.cit., p.117.

[13] The term “Hurrian” (derived from Suwalliyat/Suwariyat/Sūrya; see below) however may not be equated with “Āryan” since both Iranian and Indian have distinct terms for the sun (sūrya, hvare) and for the community of Aryans (ārya, eira), respectively. Hurrian certainly includes a strong Dravidic element in it (see G.W. Brown, “The possibility of a connection connection between Mitanni and the Dravidian languages”, JAOS, 50 (1930), 273-305).

[14] See N. Lahovary, tr. K.A. Nilakantan, Dravidian Origins origins and the West: Newly discovered ties with the ancient culture and languages, I cluding Basque, of the pre-Indo-European Mediterranean world, Bombay: Orient Longmans, 1963, p.2.

[15]  Shriram Sharma, Scientific Basis of Yajnas along with its wisdom aspect, ed. A.N. Rawal and tr. H.A. Kapadia, Ch.20.

[16] S. Sharma, Ibid.

[17]  AV IV,23,5: “With [Agni] as friend the Rishis gave their power new splendour,
with whom they kept aloof the Asuras’ devices”.

[18] See F.E. Pargiter, Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, London: Milford, 1922. p.308f.

[19] See K.N. Aiyar, Thirty Minor Upanishads, Madras: Vasanta Press, 1914.

[20] See M. Biardeau, Le sacrifice dans l’inde ancienne, Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1976, p.75.

[21] i.e. Heaven (V,12,1).

[22] i.e. the sun (V,13,1).

[23] i.e. air (V,14,1).

[24] i.e. ether (V,15,1).

[25] i.e. water (V,16,1).

[26] Prathishta (V,17,1)

[27] S. Sharma, op.cit., Ch.9.

[28] See J. Darmsteter, Zend Avesta, I, 152f; 169.

[29] Sol Invictus takes the place of the Avestan khvarena in the later Mithraic religion. All the Roman emperors after Commodus (161-192 A.D.) assumed this title.

[30] Cf. Mihir Yasht XXV.

[31] See Holly Grether, “Tantric Homa Rites in the Indo-Iranian Ritual Paradigm,” Journal of Ritual Studies 21.1 (2007), 16-32.

[32] Ibid., p.28.

[33] See M. Biardeau, op.cit., p.139.

[34] See Mary Boyce, “On the Zoroastrian temple-cult of fire”, JOAS, 95/3, p.454.

[35] See A. Parpola, “The Problem of the Aryans”, in G. Erdosy, (ed.) The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995, p.366.

[36] See P.O. Skjaervo, “The Avesta as source for the early history of the Iranians”, in G. Erdosy (ed.), The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995, p.168.

[37] See above.

[38] Cf. M. Eliade’s discussion of shamanism among the Scythians, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, N.Y.: Pantheon Books, 1964, pp.394ff.

[39] See M. Eliade, op.cit., p.401.

[40]  Ibid., p.417.

[41] See F.E. Pargiter, op.cit., p.309. In the Mbh I, 75, too Purūravas is said to have brought the three kinds of sacrificial fire from the Gandharvas.

[42] See Rāmāyana VII,103,21ff.

[43] Budh was married to Ila, the daughter of Manu Vaivaswat.

[44] See John Woodroffe (“Arthur Avalon”), Shakti and Shâkta: Essays and addresses on the Shâkta tantrashâstra, London: Luzac and Co. 1918.

[45] Ibid., p.154ff.

[46] See G. Flood, The Tantric Body: The secret tradition of Hindu religion, London: I.B. Tauris, 2006.

[47] Yael Bentor, “Interiorized Fire Rituals in India and in Tibet.” JAOS 120.4 (2000), p.600.

[48] In John Woodroffe, op.cit., ‘Note to Ch.IV‘.

[49] Ibid.

[50] See R. Payne, ‘Homa: Tantric Fire Ritual’, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, p.7.

[51] Vesna Wallace, ‘Homa Rituals in the Indian Kālacakra Tradition’, in R.K. Payne and M. Witzel (ed.), Homa Variations: Ritual Change across the Longue Durée. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015, p.260.

[52] See Y. Bentor, op.cit., p.597.

[53] See V. Wallace, op.cit.

[54] See H. Grether, op.cit., p.21.

[55] See Y. Bentor, op.cit., p.605.

[56] Ibid., p.605.

[57] See J.C. Heesterman, Broken world: An essay on ancient Indian ritual, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993, p.186.

[58] See Wade T. Wheelock,  ‘The Mantra in Vedic and Tantric Ritual’, in H.P. Alper (ed.), Understanding Mantras, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1989, p.108.

[59] Ibid., p.105.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Wheelock, op.cit., pp.102ff.

[62] For a further account of the divinisation of idols in the Tantric tradition, see A. Jacob, Brahman: A Study of the Solar Rituals of the Indo-Europeans, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2012, Ch.XV.

[63] See G. Flood, op.cit., p.38.

[64] Cf. A. Jacob, Brahman, Chs.XIII-XV.

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Evoking the Dead

Necromancy & Curse Tablets in Ancient Greece

Gwendolyn Taunton


hellenic tomb door
Ancient Greek Tomb Door

Necromancy is the most infamous branch of the occult arts, and has not only beguiled many with its lure of ethereal power and unearthly nature, it also terrifies them, for the conjuration of the dead violates all moral and ethical boundaries, irrespective of whether the act is one of benign divination or one of the vilest curses. Over the centuries, it has known many forms, ranging from prophecy and divination, through to curse tablets, and eventually even the grimoires and the black magic of the Goetia.

The origin of necromancy in Greece is an interesting topic, with a variety of sources attesting to different terms, such as nekuia and nektomanteia, which begin to appear c. 300 BCE. Phrynichus Arabius also informs us that the ancients applied the term psuchogōgos to those who charmed the souls of the dead with acts of sorcery (goēteiais) and Synesius describes being attacked by ghosts sent through his dreams by psuchopompoi (ghost-sending) goetes.”[1] The etymology of the word goēs indicates that psuchogōgia constituted the original meaning of the concept as a derivative of goos (mourning song) and goaō (sing a song of mourning). Goēteiais, goetes, goēs, and goēteia are linked to the later word goetia which is associated with the collection of texts on ‘black magic’ known as grimoires. Many modern occult authors have reached conclusions that the demons referenced within the Grimoires are psychological manifestations, thus placing them more in line with Jungian theories than with the occult. This perspective, however, runs in direct opposition to the origins of the word, which explicitly involves necromancy and a very real belief in communication with the dead. Are the grimoires then, actually connected to ideas of Hell and Demons found in Christianity, or is this a later attempt to transpose a much older tradition of necromancy onto a Christian belief system? If this is indeed the case, a substantial amount of ‘black magic’ arising from the Grimoire has been grievously misinterpreted by conflating Christian soteriology with archaic Greek Paganism.

The original role of the goēs was as an officiator of funerary rites/mourning chants but this role progressed into being one that not only officially mourned the dead, but could also communicate with them. Furthermore, the original Indo-European root was *gow, which was onomatopoeic for grief.[2] Both psuchogōgia and goes originate from this original root term, which eventually evolved to become the Goetia. This is verified by Daniel Ogden who writes in Greek and Roman Necromancy that “Goēteia is the calling upon of evil demons that hang around tombs … Goēteia got its name from the gooi and thrēnoi of those around tombs.”[3] Therefore, the original spirits were evidentially supplanted by a preference for conjuring the ‘evil dead’, who were eventually escalated in rank to ‘demons’ in the Goetia, with goetia being the Latin form of the Greek word goēteia.

One aspect of archaic necromancy which deviates from the later Goetia concerns the locations. For Hellenic necromancy, location was important and many of the locations chosen had a physical or symbolic descent into the underworld dominion of Hades. These locations were called nekuomanteion (prophecy-place of the dead), psuchomanteion (prophecy-place of ghosts) or Psuchagögion (drawing-place of ghosts’). In terms of their geographical locations, a number of sites are mentioned. For example, Sophocles refers to an oracle of the dead at Tyrrhenia[4] and a Nekyomanteion at Ephyra, Pausanias refers to a necromantic shrine in Phigaleia as ‘an impressive and snake-haunted spot’,[5] and Heraclides Ponticus mentions an entrance to Hades at Heracleia.[6]

As would be expected many of the sites were located in caves or underground complexes. However, there is one other distinctive feature about the necromantic sites which is of significance – that being their proximity to bodies of water, specifically lakes. Both Avernus and Acheron are thought to have included lakeside precincts, and Tainaron is the only one which has no lake or pool associated with it.[7] The Acheron nekuomanteion is mentioned by Herodotus and Pausanias, both of whom use the term nekuomanteion, and an Odyssey scholiast, who refers to the limnē Nekuopompos (Lake Sending the·Dead).[8] The lakes are described as being still and aornos (birdless) which indicates that they are not normal lakes. Descriptions of the lakes are eerie and depict a lake that is incapable of sustaining life – a dead volcanic lake. Moreover, this would explain why no birds inhabited the lakes, as volcanic gases would make them ill. Daniel Ogden cites a theory on the volcanic nature of Avernus, stating that,

The locals used to tell another myth that birds that flew over the gulf fell into the water, because they were destroyed by gases that came off it, as in ploutônia (sanctuaries with mephitic emissions). And they took this place for a ploutônion, and they believed that the Cimmerians lived there. Those who had sacrificed in advance and propitiated the underworld powers sailed into it. There were priests to guide one through the process, who managed the place under contract. There is a source there of drinkable water by the sea, but all kept back from this, considering it to be the water of the Styx. And the oracle is situated somewhere there. And they took the hot springs nearby, and the Acherusian Lake, to be evidence of Pyriphlegethon.[9]

The proximity of hot springs, allegedly undrinkable water, and gases which are toxic to birds suggest high volcanic/geothermal activity in the area at the time – which is not unlikely due to Greece being prone to seismic activity. Likewise, it is not unusual for such locations to be regarded as sacred sites for divinatory purposes. Delphi, the most famous of all Greek oracle sites was originally said to draw its power from a chasm deep in the earth, and it has been speculated that the first Pythias may have inhaled a form of gas released deep from within the earth, as prior to the Delphi’s ownership by Apollo it appears to have been a location primarily associated with chthonic rites.

Naturally, the practice of nekuia developed and expanded into further occult practices, which were no longer in the hands of the ‘official’ mourners, but those of sorcerers and magicians, and at this point ‘necromancy proper’ is encountered. Now the dead are no longer merely summoned, they are compelled to carry out actions on the sorcerer’s behalf. The location was also important again at this stage, with tombs and sites of death being preferred, as ghosts were thought to linger in the vicinity of these areas. The dead were now used as an intermediary between the world of mortals and that of Hades, who was implored to act at their bequest, with Hades carrying out a ‘judiciary’ function against the accused. The dead were conceived of as catalysts in the causal chain of a magical event involving the person laying the curse, the underworld divinities, and the victim, using an analogy to the juridical system. It is evident that when human law failed them, those skilled in the occult arts sought justice and retribution through Hades in his supreme role as the Judge of the Dead. Persephone and Hermes are also mentioned in a binding spell cited in the Attic Curse Tablets, which is based on a structure similar to that of the legal process found in the court of Athens.

The normal formula is katadô or katagraphô pros ton Hermen or pros tên Persephonen, I bind or I write down someone “in the presence of”, “before Hermes, Persephone”. Pros with accusative is often attested in the judicial realm. It means “register someone with someone else,” transferring someone into another person’s power. In the realm of magic, the victim of the spell is transferred to, handed over, devoted to the powers of the underworld gods, a morbid act indeed.[10]

Curse tablets contained inscriptions that were not intended to be read by the living, but by the dead and the Gods of the underworld. They were therefore deposited in graves, wells, or hidden in sanctuaries – places not frequented by mortals but by the deceased operating as conduits to Hades. Curse tablets that specifically required spirits to carry out magical acts of binding were often deposited in underground bodies of water,[11] which reinforces the connection to lakes. In other cases, the sorcerer placed the tablets into the right hand of the corpse, hoping that it would pollute the tablet and drag the victim down with it into Hades.[12]

Interestingly enough, the deity most often cited in curse tablets is not Hades, but rather Hermes Katochos (Hermes the Restrainer).[13] Considering the role that Hermes plays as a psychopomp[14] it is not surprising that he is the deity called upon to escort the victim down into the underworld. In the Papyri Graecae Magicae, Hekate is sometimes referenced in a similar fashion to Hermes.

In curse tablets and in magical orations, the method used to influence the spirits of the dead is what Plato calls peithô (persuasion). Rhetoric and magic are equated from Gorgias on, with the gifted speaker seen as a magician who can enchant the audience. Plato also speaks of peithô as characterizing the activities of the goêtes versus the Gods. This is in agreeance with other theories on linguistic prowess being linked to magic due to the ability of the performer to rouse an emotional response at both the participant and observer level. The word, spoken or written, possesses powers which are a fine craft, to be used at will by those who are skilled in composition. When dealing with the oral ritual component, language is the bridge between the two worlds, the subject and the object, the real and ideal (to borrow Plato’s terminology). When used effectively, it is a tool to focus the will into manifestation – careful use of constructed formulas will enhance this potential. A later occult text, the Corpus Hermeticum, explains the intimate relationship between speech and the preternatural.

God has endowed man beyond all mortal creatures with these two gifts: Nous and Speech, both as much valued as immortality. If he was these gifts rightly, he will be no different from the immortals, and on departing from the body he will be guided by both to the realm of the gods and the blessed ones … For Agathos Daimon, the blessed God, has said that the soul is in the body, Nous in Soul, and the Word in Nous, and that God is the father of these … The Word is an image of Nous, and Nous is an image of God; just as the body is an image of an idea, and the idea is an image of the soul.[15]

The effect of the power of words in rituals also works in a similar way with the word becoming the transitional point between subject and object – the power of the word or speech draws the desired goal of the ritual into manifestation.[16] The power of the words is in effect an operative mechanism by which the ritual specialist transcribes their will onto reality. It is the transitory point between subject and object – the power of their speech draws the desired goal of the ritual into manifestation. In the case of the Attic Curse Tablets, the language used is a direct analogy to the Attic judicial system, where speakers sought to persuade the judges of their version of incidents via peithô.[17] The magician puts the accused on trial, subject to the jurisdiction of Hades in his capacity as Judge of the Dead. Furthermore, the requests of the curser are expressed with the verb hypêretein which is related to hypêretês and denotes the ‘executioner’ in Attic legal language.[18] The sorcerer is, therefore, petitioning Hades for an execution.

The intended recipients of the message are not the spirits of the dead themselves, they merely convey the message to the chthonic divinities, but it is the dead who drag the victim down into Hades’ realm. Even Plato acknowledges that the daimones are the medium for the prophetic arts, incantation, divination, and sorcery, for the divine will not mingle directly with the human, and it is only through the mediation of the spirit world that man can have any communication, whether waking or sleeping, with a God.[19] The daimones are also said by Plutarch to be instrumental in running the oracles and the souls of the dead.

As to the type of spirits evoked in necromantic procedures, certain forms were considered more suitable for the purpose, such as those who had died recently, especially if their death had been violent or premature. Lucan even describes how a magician uses a man, whose throat had been recently cut and was not yet used to death, as an involuntary assistant.[20] In general, those who were conceived of as belonging to the category of the ‘restless dead’ were considered suitable for necromancy, namely the ataphoi, atelestoi, or insepulti (the deceased who had not received the appropriate funerary rites or burial), the aōroi (those who had a premature death), the biaiothanatoi (those who had suffered an unpleasant or violent death) and the malevolent undead, the larvae or lemures.[21] These forms of necromancy have nothing in common with ‘Reanimation necromancy’, which is the act of physically resurrecting the dead, as is popularized in zombie myths. The physical form is not restored to life, and evocations are strictly of an incorporeal kind. Accounts of reanimation necromancy are purely fictitious, occurring in fictional accounts such as Lucan’s Erictho and Menippus, Heliodorus’s Bessa, and Apuleius’s Zatchlas and Thelyphron.[22]

Over the centuries, necromancy has taken on a number of social functions. At its archaic root, necromancy seems to have had a positive role associated with funerary rites and the mourning process. This was followed by a shift towards a more magical role, perhaps in recognition of the unnatural ability these individuals possessed in being able to communicate with ghosts, spirits, and the restless dead. Through the advent of curse tablets, necromancy fully entered into the province of the dark arts and has remained under this aegis ever since, reaching its height of notoriety in the Goetia and the grimoire traditions. With the Christian conquest of Europe, certain necromantic elements survived and were syncretized with Christian soteriology and Jewish mysticism inherited from the Old Testament, which ultimately led to the chthonic Gods of the Hellenic world being stripped of their juridical function, and instead conflated with devils and demons from the Abrahamic Traditions. As such, though the linguistic roots are very similar, the Goetia has little in common with its necromantic predecessors.


[1] Ogden, D., Greek and Roman Necromancy (USA: Princeton University Press, 2001), 96

[2] Ibid., 110

[3] Ibid.

[4] Stoneman, R., The Ancient Oracles: Making the Gods Speak (USA: Yale University Press, 2011), 70

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ogden, D., Greek and Roman Necromancy, pp. 35-36

[8] Ibid., 44

[9] Ogden, D., Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Source Book (UK: Oxford University Press, 2002), 162

[10] Rieß, W, Agency on Attic Curse Tablets (Germany: Universität Hamburg), 2

[11] Ogden, D., Greek and Roman Necromancy, 48

[12] Rieß, W., Agency on Attic Curse Tablets, 4

[13] Ibid.

[14] Psychopomps act as ‘guides’ for the soul and transport them to the afterlife.

[15] Hermes Trismegistus, The Way of Hermes – The Corpus Hermeticum (Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd, 1999), 77

[16] Ladriere, J., Language & Belief (Gill & Macmillan Ltd, 2002), 177

[17] Rieß, W., Agency on Attic Curse Tablets, 3

[18] Ibid., 6

[19] Stoneman, R., The Ancient Oracles: Making the Gods Speak, 104

[20] Alfayé, S., Sit Tibi Terra Gravis: Magical-Religious Practices Against the Restless Dead in the Ancient World, (UK: University of Oxford), 187

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ogden, D., Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Source Book, 163

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Review: The Occult Technology of Power

The Initiation of the Son of a Finance Capitalist into the Arcane Secrets of Economic and Political Power


Reviewed by V. Caine

This is an interesting little gem of a book, which despite being short in length, provides a description of what could be either a capitalist conspiracy or a ‘manifesto for materialism’, depending on one’s use of the text. To be clear: although the title sounds esoteric, ‘occult’ is used here in the sense of ‘hidden’ and the content deals more with financial power than it does with any magic(k)al themes. Originally published in 1974, this is a new edition published by Underworld Amusements.

The book conveys a set of instructions from a wealthy elitist to his son for controlling society through financial  and strategic means. In 1974 I imagine the subject matter was less believable, but in the modern era, the rise of hedge fund managers, investment bankers, stock market tycoons….and even billionaire presidents….tends to suggest that the subject matter of the book, even it was fictional, has now become factual. Indeed, to suggest that the wealthy few conspire against the 99% was popularized on a large scale by the ‘Occupy Wall St’ movement only a few years ago. Like all individuals that have to hold onto their power with ferocious tenacity, that ruling 1% (whoever they are) very probably does have a set of guidelines (or, at the very least, ideas) for perpetuating their reign and passing on assets to the next generation. Whether it is a conspiracy or purely common sense, is up to the reader’s interpretation.

The text also conveys the difference between ‘soft power’ and ‘hard power’. Though these two terms are usually used in military terms, they also apply to other theoretical implications of power. ‘Soft Power’, in terms of social power, is more likely to be derived from knowledge or respect, whereas ‘hard power’ arises from the amount of cold hard cash one has in their bank account. As unfortunate as it may seem to those without it, money talks much louder than deeds, and wealth is indeed a ‘hard power’ because even though money may not be able to buy you happiness, it certainly buys access to ventures which are not available to others. Moreover, politics is increasingly becoming  an activity for the wealthy, because they alone have access to the funds which are necessary to drive a political campaign. Generally speaking, the same individual will donate (tax free) money to both the Right and Left fractions, to ensure they control the country – whichever party wins. The very nature of the electoral system has been structured so that regardless of one’s good intentions, without being (or controlled by) a millionaire they are doomed to failure. As long as power remains in the hands of the wealthy, the greater the chance that they will use their financial status to secure their reign for future generations. When seen in this light, democracy is revealed for what it actually is becoming – a plutocracy. If the same donor controls both parties, the only victor is the donor, and neither the candidate nor the voter can ever win an election.

Machiavellian sentiment of this ilk runs high in the text, but in terms of ‘realpolitik’ the statements which may be shocking to some are just common sense to others. For example,

All power is impossible to those whose pursuit is ruled by sentimentality, love, envy, power-lust, revenge, prejudice, hatred, justice, alcohol, drugs, or sexual desire. Sustained power is impossible to those who repress all their irrational longings into their subconscious only to have them return in compulsive, out of control behavior that inevitably leads to their ruin.[1]

This is all too often the case with ‘fringe’ politicians who let their emotions run rampant to the point which many men morph into shrieking histrionics, letting their personal neuroses control what should purely logical decisions, and thus quickly falling prey to unfavorable media coverage and grossly incompetent decision making. The path to power is literally paved with the corpses of neurotic fools.

At any rate, though originally composed in 1974 (and thus well ahead of its time), the reign of those who composed the book has been undoubtedly secured. Indeed, as described below, it can easily be demonstrated by the undue reverence one pays to ‘economists’, whom by and large, are glorified number-crunchers that have merely substituted hepatomancy for an Excel spreadsheet.

“Our power is weakened by real advances in economic science. However, we established money lords have been able to prolong and even reverse our decline by systematically corrupting economic science with fallacious and spurious doctrines.”[2]

Furthermore, the author of the book claims to promulgate hostility between the Left & the Right in politics, securing their own power behind the wings whilst sowing animosity betwixt the two:

“Innumerable meaningless conflicts to divert the attention of the public from our operations find fertile ground in the bitter hatreds of the Right-Left imbroglio. […] We promote phony free enterprise on the Right and phony democratic socialism on the Left.” [3]

Of course, the banking industry is deeply implicated in this whole conspiracy. Further into the book, strategies for the control of power are described, including Steeply Graduated Income Tax, Business Regulation, Subsidies tariffs & Foreign Aid, centralization of power, and alliance with the lower classes.

The Occult Technology of Power is a small but unique book, and is a must have edition to the library for those who love or hate capitalism. The book also has a nice Art Deco style layout which adds to its appeal.



[1] The Occult Technology of Power (USA: Underworld Amusements, 2016), 8

[2] Ibid., 16

[3] Ibid., 18


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The Worker: The Modern Operative Figure Foreseen by Ernst Jünger

Exert from Operative Traditions Vol. I by Miguel Angel Fernandez

Operative Traditions Vol. IDer Arbeiter: Herrschaft und Gestalt was translated into English as “The Worker: Figure and Dominion.” This misleading translation was very likely one of the main reasons why the book was not properly grasped in terms of its core transformative message, and why it was often misinterpreted from political standpoints. In order to not further confuse the readers, in Operative Traditions it has been chosen to make use of a new expression: “The Operator” (instead of “The Worker”) intending to approach in a new renovated way a figure which is naturally predisposed towards operative dominion.

Julius Evola, aware of the powerful ideas embedded in Jünger’s book, published an introductory book on “The Operator” for Italian readers called “L’Operaio nel pensiero de Ernst Jünger” (The Worker in the thought of Ernst Jünger) which is a summarized approach to the essay of the German author, and which was elaborated—especially in the last chapter “Conclusions”—from the perspective on  Tradition that Evola relied on during his entire life. Evola also agreed that by referring to the term “Arbeiter/Worker” Jünger was not referring to anything that could resemble a proletarian ideal or the idea of the worker as reduced to fulfilling an exclusive economic/production aim. These were the impressions of Evola on the work of Jünger:

“The merit of Jünger in this first phase of his thought, is to have recognized the fatal mistake of all those who think that everything can be reordered, that this new threatening world, always in progress, can be tamed or interrupted on the basis of vision of life and the values of the previous era; that is, of the bourgeois civilization.”

The most substantial aspect of Ernst Jünger’s work corresponds to presenting to Western culture the issue of technique, as an operative factor that has become extremely formative in terms of the actual conditions of power and dominion. Presenting this idea for the first time corresponded in the case of Ernst Jünger, to an extremely revolutionary accomplishment, since one of the traits of Western culture since the Enlightenment was to grant power, relevance, and dominion to scientific thought and to the discursive and rationalistic mind (eventually becoming philosophically defended the tendency by Transcendental Idealism). Yet it was precisely Jünger’s heroic experiences in warfare and extremely dangerous situations that allowed him to perceive “the power of the Zeitgeist, which degrades the ideal into an illusion” and visualize the dynamic mobilization based on the power provided by technical and operative factors.

Amidst this new configuration of physis, all former ideals, religious frameworks and secular ideals were becoming mere subsidiary factors, “shadows,” and in most cases justifications a posteriori of all phenomena taking place within a novel reality that was no longer accessible to the bourgeoisie speculative and idealistic approaches to the cosmos, but rather to a figure characterized by an intimate aim for dominion: the Operator, the “Lord and dominator of the world, an imperious type who is in possession of a full power only dimly glimpsed so far”—as Ernst Jünger writes, having described the core philosophy of Julius Evola as a framework that assists the individual to relate to the empirical conditions of the world, that Jünger considered as “the only possible heir of Prussianism,” the Operator.

This corresponds well to the Individual who has formerly burnt away all sense of artificial and abstract individualism, and who develops an activity—technique— which awakens an “I” potentially capable of homeostatic dominion over the effective conditions of reality. Such an Individual would have to necessarily arrive at the third stage defined by Evola, which is the development phase of Magical Idealism, or what in his phenomenology he refers to as the Stage of Dominion (“era della dominazione”). This stage is not determined by economic power, but rather the modes of power and dominion over the economic conditions. Therefore, whenever referring to the Operator it is crucial to draw a distinction line between the Operator and the idea of the worker.

The Operator is a figure that is more primordial than the worker, and “beyond dialectics,” as Jünger remarks; the Operator sets the territorial dominion on which the worker can afterwards develop a production/economic activity. The former distinction is crucial, since most of the misconceptions on Jünger’s essay arose from the assimilation of the Operator figure to that of any individual developing an activity related to production/economic purposes. This distinction carries Jünger’s approach to the Operative Traditions of the West and East, where territorial dominion and the establishment of strong homeostatic links between men and the environment constituted the legitimizing factor for developing economic activity. The Operative Freemasons cherished this idea during medieval times, and as we’ve seen in the account of Eugen Herrigel with Master Awa Kenzo, the entire archery practice is also intended to be uncoupled and released from any economic need. As we’ve already seen, in the case of an Operative Tradition such as the “Great Doctrine,” Eugen Herrigel finally managed to properly assimilate and be one with it.

What is intended to be produced is not a specific form of matter, but rather a specific form of energy which directs the developments of matter and its particular character of mobilization; hence the archer is intended to constitute an operative “bridge” capable of serving as a “channel” or “funnel” between both realms. By accomplishing this task successfully, the economic domain—strictly linked to the conditions of material production—serves a purpose that, for instance, in the case of Zen Buddhism was often assigned a ritual and regal function, which was related to the State. The same idea emerged during Medieval Europe with the Operative arts being integrated in Gothic architecture, which all  dispersed across Europe before the emergence of the State-nations, and constituted clear imperial developments at a continental level.The latter entails another key characteristic of the Operator: its intimate relation to the State. However, once again another key differential nuance has to be pointed out. Jünger did not refer to the State-nations as the territory the Operator aims to dominate or politically link with.

Ernst Jünger’s idea of the State is the imperialer Räume where hierarchy—like in the case of the Prussian Empire— was determined by a sense of duty, self-discipline, self-sacrifice, and devotion towards military activities. These character traits constituted valuable elements to Eugen Herrigel when he was under the guidance of Master Awa Kenzo, a man who incarnated imperial values. In fact, the “distillation” of Herrigel’s personal virtue and essence would have been impossible if not for having embraced those crucial traits during the years of training. Yet these imperial character traits can easily cool when the individual is placed in a society where economic individualism (liberalism) or the cult of economic production as a socio-political factor (Marxism) constitute ideologies that no longer aim to “distill” the needs and desires, but instead tend to increase and hypertrophy all needs and desires. In this context—which has proliferated in the West since World War I—the Operator would have to search for territories where technique can be developed as the main configuring factor of reality. Yet in order to attain this release from the intoxicating effects of ideologies such as liberalism and Marxism, the Operator would have to first be free inside—in terms of conscience—and this entails freedom from any bourgeoisie world-view.


Not in Australia? You can purchase Operative Traditions from Amazon below



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Actionism – How to Become a Responsible Man

Lennart Svensson

Forthcoming – August 2017

actionism svenssonWe all have to act. There is no choice between an active and an inactive life, a “vita activa” versus a “vita contemplativa”. We all have to sustain our body functions, we at least have to breathe – therefore, everybody has to act. Thus, everybody needs a book on “how to act” – and, voilà, here it is, a moral essay and self help guide called Actionism – How to Become a Responsible Man.

Written by renowned author Lennart Svensson, Actionism is footed in perennial metaphysics. Essential reality is immaterial, eternal ideas and patterns rest in the causal sphere where they affect the material world and material man, all “incarnated souls” in the confluence of samsâra. This kind of ontological background makes this into a refined selfhelp guide, the statements and assertions forming the core of the book being founded in the esoteric thought of western and eastern tradition.

As intimated, a prominent place in the book is occupied by responsibility.  The basic of all reality, of God, is will, thought and passion, and the individual human being, having a spark of the divine light, is a being of will, thought and passion. And from will is derived the value of responsibility, a much neglected virtue in the mindless emotionalism of today. Thus the subtitle of the book: “How to Become a Responsible Man”.

Along with will there’s a conceptualization of thought and passion, Actionism thus forming a valid ethic for the mindful operator of today. This is about eternal values, operational in your everyday. This is a serious essay in popular form, a “tight but loose” deliberation on the deathless issue of, How Shall I Act.

The first seven chapters of the book lay the foundation, explaining the Actionist way of life with references to Nietzsche, Castaneda, the Bhagavad-Gîtâ and the Bible, introducing concepts like “action as being” and “movement as a state,” and the need for mental calm and a memento mori mindset. After a look into the role of art – the passion of compassion – the study takes a look at operators like d’Annunzio, Evola and T. H. Lawrence from an Actionist viewpoint. Then Svensson deliberates on operations – how to operate as a hiker, a soldier, a trained chef and such, all within the framework of Actionist ethics. This is an operational pro spilling the beans about “how to act,” not some philosophy professor making abstract examples.

The mid part of the study discusses how contemporary society might be conceived of in Actionist terms. We here read of things like “declining war trend,” “the nature of decadence” and “the society of the future,” Svensson in the latter case giving a structural outlook on how to arrange and re-arrange a modern society.

Finally, part three of the study again focuses on the microcosm, on individual man as an ethical operator, by referencing greats like Poe, Kierkegaard and Neale Donald Walsch. It all results in a veritable “hymn to the active life” – since, as you know by now, we all have to act.

In 2015 author Lennart Svensson published his metaphysical essay Borderline – A Traditional Outlook for Modern Man, a study focusing on holistic metaphysics and epistemology, a perennially footed conceptualization of everything. Now, in Actionism, we finally have Svensson’s magnum opus study of prescriptive ethics and morals, an arousing vision of an active, mindful lifestyle – a clarion call to live the responsible life, to become the first ever Responsible Men in the history of mankind.


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Operative Traditions Vol. I

Miguel A. Fernandez

A Book where Ernst Jünger and Julius Evola meet at last

Available in early August 2017 from Manticore Press

Operative Traditions ArcherOperative Traditions provides a practical and didactic approach to the heritage of the West and the East, focusing on the core values present in traditional craft and art. Through a deep insight into the operative aspects and spiritual character of such disciplines, this book approaches one of the least studied aspects of modern culture: technique and its importance as a key factor for spiritual development.

Operative Traditions uncovers the important ideas of one of the most obscure philosophical works of the 20th century: Julius Evola’s Theory and Phenomenology of the Absolute Individual. Evola’s gnoseological approach draws from the crisis experienced in modern times by Transcendental Idealism (Kant, Hegel, Schelling) and establishes an immanent critique beyond all discursive relativism and speculation. Evola provides the individual with a series of epistemological “tools” that allow the establishment of transcendent immanence: the projection of the core values of Tradition upon the most diverse and complex human realities. The great value of Evola’s philosophy resides in its capacity to be directly applied in the most materialistic, reductionist, and highly technological conditions of the 21st century. Operative Traditions studies these technical conditions, aiming to describe the fundamental framework that influences an individual’s traits and habits.

Operative Traditions also examines The Worker (Der Arbeiter, 1932), one of the most misunderstood works by Ernst Jünger. This serves to provide a new dignity for technique and work, no longer regulating these activities to economic or class-related factors, but instead as opus, a means for forging the diamond brilliance of the spirit.

Operative Traditions presents a more appealing and highly artistic vision shared by these figures than is commonly found the political context, instead revealing a creative path where the individual can attain the absolute, persuading all the stars to revolve around him.

Operative Traditions offers a multidisciplinary exposition that aims to establish a dialogue between readers who are interested in the metaphysical aspects of Traditionalism and Perennial Philosophy with a broader range readers who are involved in the actual operative conditions of our time. Operative Traditions aims to provide new perspectives, approaches, and disciplines for all those who want to follow Evola’s advice of “riding the tiger”, here and now, who are no longer content living as “men among the ruins”, and want to become men who strive to develop new creations.

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Psanky Eggs—The Transcendent Spring Gift

Pysanky Egg

Juleigh Howard-Hobson

With their intricately wrought designs and deepset colors, Ukrainian Psanky eggs are as fascinating as they are lovely. Pronounced “peh-san-keh”, these decorated eggs are considered Easter Eggs these days, and/or seen as examples of Eastern European folk art by collectors and tourists alike. But Psanky (singular Psanka) are far more numinous than that.

Psanky have roots that stretch far back to Ancient European pagan spirituality. Indeed, traces of Trypillian symbology (Neolithic Era) can be still seen in many Psanka designs.

Although best known, Ukraine is not unique in its indigenous European egg decorating. From the Polish pisanka, over to the Hungarian hímestojás, eggs have been decorated with dye and wax every spring since prehistoric times. For brevity sake, I’m going to refer to all of these by their Ukrainian name Psanky.

There are other decorated eggs, but Psanky created with dye and beeswax (it must be beeswax, due to sacred solar associations with bees and flowers) are special. Goose and duck eggs were once preferred, but hen eggs are used now. The egg must be raw, the designs ‘written’ with a “kistka”, a tool that holds flame-melted beeswax (flames bring sacred solar energy). The eggs are dyed and designs applied in succession until the Psanka is finished. Then it is baked, to melt off the wax and set both the egg and the sacred intention it carries.

Traditionally, Psanky are personal to the maker and to the recipients. Older people are given darker dyed eggs with a myriad of decoration, symbolizing their full lives, while younger people are given white eggs with spaces between decorations, representative of lives yet to be ‘filled in’.

Some carry a dual meaning since Christianity replaced the indigenous faith of the European peoples, but traditional Psanka decorations are age-old. As in all artistic endeavors, there are as many designs as there are practitioners, but many meanings remain as they were since the Neolithic. Unbroken lines represent long life, crosses now represent Christ but once represented the sun (the solar cross), the spiral symbolize cycles of life/rebirth, ladders are bridges to the divine, deer symbolize victory, birds symbolize the eternal return of life (hens and roosters symbolize having many children). Triangles represented pagan triads (mother maiden crone, life-death-rebirth, etc.) but now represent the Holy Trinity. Wolves’ teeth, which look like jagged lines, bring loyal energies. Leaves and flowers (poppy and rose are most popular) stand for beauty and life-growth, wheat brings the recipient great abundance (harvest).

Having been given a Psanka, one must never treat the gift lightly. The act of creating Psanky is sacred — from the eternal symbol of life (the egg) to the time in which it is performed (spring, Ostara, Easter) to the flame and wax with which it is made to its transformation from  raw to cooked—the making of each Psanka is a magical rite from start to finish.

Most people have blown out eggs with Psanka designs placed on them, these are not Psanky, these are decoration, or folk art if you will. There is nothing to do with them but to admire what they represent of a folk’s yearning toward the divine.

If you should be gifted with an authentic Psanka, you should admire it, but you should not save it. You should carry it about with you for the first couple of days of Easter/Ostara—or the day of and the day after the Spring Equinox. You can rinse a Psanka in fresh water on the Equinox (or Easter) and rinse yourself with the same water to ritually cleanse yourself for the year.  Psanka shells can be thrown up on the roof to protect your household, or crushed and given to chickens to ensure fertility. Some Psanka are left, whole, on graves of family members, especially children. Psanka are never eaten.

Spring time is glorious, a swift bright time of creation and delight. The Psanka, with its ancient designs and beautiful aspects, captures the holiness of this season as well. A numinous gift that has transcended the ages, renewed in spring, every year.

Photo by Luba Petrusha

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Shedding Light on Candles

Juleigh Howard-Hobson

Most rituals — whether they take place in front of an altar or a harrow, in the middle of a circle or a shrine, or outdoors in a holy spot — incorporate candles. While candles can serve a very specific purpose in certain magical ritual, usually their presence is part of an overall ambiance of an event, burning away warmly in the background, hardly noticed by most. This disregard doesn’t mean they aren’t working, though. Candles are very powerful, and candle magic has a long and illustrious history.

Most candles these days are not white, although white is a profoundly divine color and always right to use, there is an abundance of choices available for us to use now. Every candle color has a meaning which ties into the effect they work on those around them.  Blue candles are used to invoke high spiritual insight and Odinic wisdom, while green can be used to bring about prosperity and growth (in whatever area growing needs to be done). Golden candles should be burned to bring about victory, wealth, and luck. Red, that color of Thor himself, is used when strength is called upon. Pink candles can be burned to attract love.  Black might seem repellent, and it is—but it repels negativity and bad luck so it is a wonderful color to burn.

Carving a symbol into the wax of a candle will bring about extra power as the candle burns. Sigils, runes, letters…the symbol need not be well drawn or well known, it simply needs to harness your intentions. Use an ordinary nail or a knife—although keep away from iron or silver—and be careful not to cut too deeply. It’s easier to do this carving before you decide to dress the candle:

A candle’s unseen power can be enhanced by ‘dressing’ it (the added bonus to doing this is that any residual unwanted energies a candle might have will be cleared off of it by dressing it). Dressing is done by simply coating the candle in an essential oil. Mint oil will boost a green candle, rose oil a pink one…there are as many oils and blends of oils you can use as there as intentions you can have for its energy. To dress: take a candle and mentally divide it in half, then working from the middle up, put a light coating of oil on the top half (I use my fingers, dabbed with the oil); repeat with the lower half, working from the middle down. It is advisable, while you dress the candle, to keep your mind on exactly what you intend the candle to do, even if it’s merely to make a gathering cozier by burning in the background.

Some folks will roll a freshly dressed candle in crushed botanicals to further enhance the magical effects they wish the candles to achieve. Finely crushed dry basil leaves are good for this, as are dried rose petals.

Candles can be used for more than mere background energy ambiance, of course. They can be burned for any reason, from happy birthday wishes (do you really think it was just old fashioned birthday party fun to have a special cake with candles stuck in it that amount to a person’s age (plus one to grow on) upon which a wish can be had if they are all blown out at once?) to stopping people from talking behind your back (for this you need to burn a red candle which has been stuck all over with cloves—as it all burns out, so will the gossip) to ‘inspiring’ water ( burn a white floating tealight, carefully, in a bowl of pure, preferably charged/blessed, water. The combined energies will create water that holds the power of flame—a contradiction, perhaps, but like the Fire and Ice of Norse Creation Myths, a very potent magical liquid to use for any number of creative applications).

It’s been said that a candle must never be blown out (so that it’s magic isn’t dispelled away) and this holds mostly true, with the caveat that sometimes you want the magic to move (as in birthday wishes and love attracting candles). It’s usually best to let a candle burn out by itself, but if you must extinguish one, using a snuffer or just pinching the wick will keep the energy of the candle around the candle.

Finally, remember, bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to candles—the smaller tapers work just as well, and much faster than those giant fashion candles so popular on the market. There’s nothing so dreadful as waiting for a candle to go out by itself…and nothing better than watching the last tendril of candle smoke rise and slowly drift, off to the aether, job done.