hermeticist

The architecture of GOD. The universe is created by a consciousness which manifests in physical reality through a blueprint that we call Sacred Geometry which repeats over and over giving the illusion of linear time.
—  Thoth

I’ve noticed that none of the major DLC’s actually focus on the Assassin vs. Templar conflict. Bonfire of the Vanities is about Savanarola. Da Vinci Disappearance is about the Hermeticists. Tyranny is about Washington. Freedom Cry is about Slaver. Dead Kings is about the Raiders. Jack the Ripper is about… well, Jack the Ripper.

The only DLC that comes close to being about the conflict is The Lost Archive, but that’s more focused on just Clay’s story.

Odin and the Greek "Logos"

It’s been a while since I’ve made any updates to this project, but I want to start again because it’s an interesting exercise.

ODIN is the next god I’ll be contemplating from the Norse pantheon, and because he’s such an important and complicated figure I’ll have to do it over a series of posts that will take some time.

I thought I would start by relating him to the ancient Greek concept of logos. Odin, as a god that has a lot to do with words and symbols (poetry, runes, etc), has an immediate logic connotation. The question I’ll be contemplating in this post is: is Odin a personification of the logos?

The word means “word.” It also means “reason, account, opinion,” and “speech.” Unfortunately there’s no one set definition: the meaning of the word depends almost entirely on the context in which it’s used. For this post I’m going to ignore its Aristotelian use in rhetoric. Instead, I want to focus on a couple other definitions:

1. Logos as man’s capacity to reason. This definition sees use in some theory and in the works of Carl Jung. It is often contrasted to Eros. Both forces represent some animating principle in mankind. One, logos, is a higher principle, and involves man’s conscious ability to reason and contemplate. On the other hand, eros is a lower principle, and is closer to man’s base instincts, driving him to consummate.

This definition is the least mystical interpretation of logos. Think of it this way: logos = word. What is a word but a symbol that means something, that points to something substantial? Logos, as man’s capacity to reason, is the faculty man has to contemplate symbols. And what is logic but the contemplation of such symbols? Creating symbols, contrasting symbols, figuring out what they mean. The sign and the signified. I’m using my logical faculties - my ability to reason - right now in writing this post, and you, the reader, are using them in reading it.

2. Logos as the word of the divine. This definition has far less consensus and can be viewed in a variety of different lights, all esoteric. This view of logos is partially bound up in the history and theology of Christianity, but the truly Christian definition, that Christ himself is the logos, will be discarded here. The word can be made flesh only in allegory.

The logos I’m interested in here is more like the logos of Plato, Heraclitus, the Stoics, Philo, and Plotinus. It, also, isn’t well-defined, and the aforementioned thinkers all had their own versions of it.

For Heraclitus, “all things come to be in accordance with this logos.”

For the Stoics, “the logos was the active reason pervading and animating the universe.”

For Philo, “intermediary beings were necessary to bridge the enormous gap between God and the material world. The logos was the highest of these intermediary beings, and was called by Philo "the first-born of God.”

What do we have here, then? An organizing principle? An animating principle? The “logic” of God, of creation? That which moves things, but moves them into specific configurations?

The most basic idea of divine logos seems to be a medium between god (ultimate divinity) and the mundane. That opens up a whole world of interpretation. For example, what is logos in relation to:

  • Pneuma
  • Consciousness
  • Tao (which is the Chinese and Japanese translation for logos)
  • Subject and Object (in light of ‘Tao’ definition, it’s tempting to cast these as yin and yang)

And of course, the Hermeticists and Gnostics have their own esoteric, metaphysical ideas of what logos is, which I won’t go into because I’m not read up on that stuff.

ANYWAY, to get back to Odin. The myths surrounding Odin (of which there are many) seem to link him to the concept of logos.

First, there’s myth of the creation of humanity. Odin and two of his friends - either Vili and Ve or Hœnir and Lóðurr - are walking along the beach and they find a couple logs. They decide to turn them into humans, so the three gods each give the couple gifts. Odin gives them Ǫnd, which means 'breath,’ or 'spirit.“ Ǫnd seems to have the same definition of pneuma, which the Stoics saw as inseparable from the logos. Next, Hœnir or Villi give the first humans (named Ask and Embla) óð, meaning sense. "Sense” has also been translated as “reason” or “intelligence” - logos. However, this “sense” seems to be of our first definition of logos, the psychological logos. Finally, Lóðurr or Ve give the humans physicality, including their blood, their hue, and their senses. For the most part, Vili, Ve, Hœnir, and Lóðurr disappear from the myths from that point on. Odin, however, remains incredibly important.

That doesn’t link Odin directly to logos, but it puts them both in the same field. The next myth worth looking into in this area is the myth of the Mead of Poetry. Without getting too into the convoluted story, the Mead of Poetry is a symbol of poetic inspiration and is a gift from Odin. Can poetry from Odin be seen as the literal “word of God?” Possibly. Or perhaps the act of writing poetry itself is inseparable from the logos, the medium between the divine and the mundane. In that case, that Odin gave it to us is deeply significant - yet, I’m not sure it proves that he is the personification of the logos himself.

The next important Odinic myth in this contemplation is that of his sacrifice of himself to himself, in which he hung from the world-tree (axis mundi) Yggdrasil for nine days. After nine days hanging, the runes revealed themselves to Odin. The runes are a few things. First, they’re an alphabet, similar to the one we use today. Next, each is representative of an occult meaning. Now, the contemplation of meanings and readings of signs is firmly in the camp of logos definition #1. However, I’m having trouble attempting to bridge the occult/magick side of runes with the nature of divine logos. Perhaps, stretching the basic esoteric definition of logos as “medium between divine and mundane,” Odin himself acts as logos by hanging between life and death at Yggdrasil (the divine), and discovering actual runes that can be carved and used (the mundane).

All of this is merely food for thought. Thinking of Odin in terms of logos lets one appreciate certain aspects of the god - those of wisdom, knowledge, language, poetry, and inspiration. As in all myth, Odin is a complex figure that embodies a variety of forces and cosmological principles. There obviously isn’t a 1:1 correlation between Odin and Logos, nor are there rigid definitions for either. And of course there are inherent difficulties in reconciling Scandinavian myth with Greek philosophy, it’s not even syncretization really. But I think we can see that both Odin and logos occupy similar territory.

I really really hope that Ubisoft does something interesting with Erudito, the Initiates, the Instruments of the First Will, or the Hermeticists, etc. I know a lot of people want characters to just be Assassins or just be Templars, but I really enjoy a well thought out chaotic neutral faction that has ideals of its own, particularly in the upcoming games. It’d be a nice, newer plot point without the old Templar crutch and it’d make the games feel more realistic. Let’s face it, history is not so simple as A vs. B.

What is Hermeticism? (Part 4)

The Magical World

The divine—the outer pentagram—is the most abstract layer, but it is also the most real. This is the dimension of reality neoplatonists referred to as the World Mind (the repository of forms from which all physical things derive their intelligibility), grounded in God or The One.

This God or One is represented here at the top of the pentagram. This is God as the ground of possibility and actuality, just like in the Judeo-Christian tradition. But this is not a deity that is completely self-enclosed and self-sufficient; nor is it simple.

You might think to yourself, “Well how can it really be God then if it’s not self-enclosed and self-sufficient? Surely we’re thinking here of a demiurge or a demon but not God.”

But it is God—not a demiurge or demon—and this is the unique hermetic contribution to theology. It is in the very nature of God to create. Therefore, the universe we see around us exists necessarily.

The reason it is within God’s nature to create is that it is within God’s nature to know his/herself. Self-knowledge necessarily belongs to God. And yet without something for God to reflect his/her essence in—without some degree of internal division and alienation—that self-knowledge is impossible. Toward this end, the divine extends itself in space and becomes the physical universe we see around us.

That divine mirror—the spatiotemporal universe, the inverted pentagram—both is and isn’t God, the way a mirror image of yourself both is and is not you. It is caused by you, it depends upon you, and it has many of your traits, but it is not you.

Another way to think about this is that nature is the body of God. This is a point where hermeticism agrees with pantheism. But unlike the pantheists, hermeticists do not reduce the God to his/her body. God is no more identical with his/her body than you or I are identical with ours.

But nature by itself is not going to be sufficient to fulfill God’s concept. Remember, in order to be what s/he really is, God must be self-aware. An inverse image is not enough. A dog can see itself in a mirror, but we don’t assume a dog is self-conscious. A crab’s eyes may be so positioned on stalks that it can see its own body, but we don’t think crabs are self-aware. God has to see his/herself and know that it’s God. The seer and the seen must be one, and in being one, they must know they are one. That’s all anyone means by self-consciousness.

This is where humans enter the equation, as represented by the middle yellow pentagram. Humans hold a special place in the hermetic cosmology. That’s why they’re placed at the center here. This is very different from pantheism, which holds that there is no “realm within a realm”, and everything is both divine and natural in the same way. Nothing could be further from the truth in hermeticism. In the hermetic cosmology, both humans and the natural world are divine in the sense of having been created by the deity for the purpose of knowing his/herself; however, humans are unique amongst all beings because they alone are capable of reflection. But in order to be of any use to God, this reflection must take a particular form, and this is where hermeticism gets to be pretty badass.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 5