It is held as self evident by wise men that to indicate one’s understanding of a certain art, one must either have good teachers or good works to submit as evidence. By good works, whatever is relative to the field in discussion will decide what is good, but in our particular instance we are speaking of the greatest of things, mysticism, and the best of works in mysticism will be the achievement of the aim of mysticism. Therefore, something which is good, in relation to what is great, will have to do with mystical attainment.
As a beginner on the path, however, one will lack good works, which are mystical attainments and spiritual endeavors, to stand as emblems of his worth. These “emblems” are not so much flags of honor to be waived before the masses, but instead flags of victory to be seen primarily by yourself and for your own sake, so that you may know the validity of your approaches and the correctness of your philosophy. For, as Artephius says in his alchemical tractate, when certain achievements appear then one knows that his “philosophy is correct.” But just as in the early stages of alchemy the requisite signs have not yet appeared to confirm or deny one’s approach, so also in the early stages of mysticism the student will not yet be able to identify if he is right or wrong in his approach. Thus enters the teacher.
The Value of Scripture
The proper degree of consideration due to discussing the nature of a true teacher cannot be had here, but must be relegated to a different article. None the less, in so far as the subjects of the teacher and scripture intersect, we may consider the point of their intersection without far straying from our original purpose. And on what point do they intersect? The matter of valued authority. For, as we will consider shortly, scripture is composed merely of the writings of great teachers. What we call scripture now, was at one time the direct instruction of a teacher, and what is currently the direct instruction of a living teacher may one day be deified as scripture.
A teacher, assumedly, will have good works with which he may be evaluated. I assume this because if one has a teacher without such evidence, I cannot imagine on what grounds that teacher would have been sought and accepted originally, unless on faith alone. And pure faith, unaided by basic reason, is I think a poor guide of something as important as one’s relationship with God. Faith has its own perfect and effective place, as the student of theurgy will eventually learn, and so I do not mean to debase the idea of faith, but instead I mean simply to suggest that the beginner will not be skilled in its use. Thus, bereft of an adequate tool apart from the obvious, the obvious should be used, and if the teacher has good works attributed to him, some manifestation of this will be obvious.
In mysticism, we have said that a good work is the aim of mysticism, and I do not think that much proof is required of this. For painting is the work of art, and the best goal of painting is to make good art, and good art will therefore be seen as the good work of artistry. Therefore also with mysticism, mystical attainment is the principle aim of mysticism and the purpose of its practice. Thus, a good mystic will be a mystic who has effectively used mysticism to achieve spiritual states, this being the good work of mysticism. If we consider this to be evident enough, then the good work of a teacher is to teach well, but the good work of a mystical teacher will be to first become a good mystic, and then secondly become a good teacher. A teacher can only communicate that which he understands, and particularly what he understands well.
A spiritual teacher will therefore necessarily understand mysticism well, which implies that he will have succeeded in the essential goal of mysticism. This also is plainly the case, since we would not send a student of mathematics to a teacher who was incapable of doing math well, nor would we send a student of literature to a teacher who could not read with particular skill. For, otherwise, we may assume that a person’s mother or father could always tutor the child in the arts or sciences, but this is clearly not the case, and the parents of the child will instead prefer to hand the child’s education over to people not only considered good at teaching, but considered good at what they teach.
What will be the good works of a spiritual teacher? We have established that such a person must be good at mysticism, and that this means that he should have achieved certain mystical aims (we will not go so far right now as to consider which ones). We have also established, though, that he must also be good at teaching. What, then, is the good work of a teacher? To produce good students, and in this Socrates agrees with us in the Laches of Plato.
This entire circle of reasoning will bring us back to the subject of scripture then, full circle, back to where we started but with a greater understanding. And, I think, it is always better to start a true investigation into something from a point of understanding, and not obscurity. I say this because I think that most people do not really know what scripture is, at least not in its useful sense, or as understood by the theurgist. To a theurgist, something is good and desired in so far as it has value, and not simply because someone said it was good and desirable. He will investigate the first principles of things, not just the last assumptions of them. Thus let us investigate, so that you, my friend, may know, instead of assume.
Though the benefit of discovering the nature of a true teacher will naturally shed light upon scripture, I will manually go about demonstrating how this is the case, so that the reader may have no doubt on this matter. We have seen above what a good teacher of mysticism must be, and I think that the reader will allow that scripture is simply composed of the writings of such teachers in the past, and that the writings so produced were of great enough value to be considered important to a person’s path. It was also just recently indicated that the work of a good teacher will be to produce good students.
Now, keep all of this in mind, and follow my thought: A good student would be a student who has shown aptitude for mimicking the good work of his teacher, in whatever art he is being taught. For example, a student of art would be a good student if he was obviously becoming good at the works of art, and the indication of this would be his ability to produce a good work of art as the result of his training. Likewise, a good student of mysticism will be different from some other kind of student because of his goodness at what he is learning, which itself also indicates that he is good at learning in general. For an aspiring mystic, this will mean that the good student will have, as the proof of his goodness, the achievement of mystical states. And this, by necessity, proves the goodness of the teacher, since the mark of a good teacher is to produce a good student.
Since we have also seen that a good teacher must be good at what he is teaching, and not just the act of teaching itself, then the ability to produce a good student of mysticism also means that the teacher himself was good at mysticism. And, by “good at mysticism,” I of course mean that he has good works, the mystical achievements. Thus, as far as teaching is concerned, a student well achieved in the aim of mysticism indicates a teacher well achieved in the same, and confirms the authenticity and value of the teacher to those trying to reach the aim of theurgy. Such a student will, when he suggests who one should learn mysticism from, be considered a great authority on the matter. For not only has such a person achieved the aim of mysticism, but he has also been a good student, and therefore knows what a good teacher is.
Seeing that scripture is composed of the writings of great teachers of the past, we must then judge it by its students. And, when a mystic who has demonstrated good works, and has achieved the goals of mysticism, says that a certain writing or scripture is of value to the aspirant, we should take this as a thing of great relevance and value. Especially, as often happens, when the same mystic indicates that the book or scripture in question is a source of valid learning, and suggests that one should study it to reach mystical aims. A mystic will do this in two ways: either by stating that one should study a certain writing directly, or by quoting it, indicating its value. For if a certain text was not valued by the mystic, he would not refer to it when writing, and he certainly would not have taken the time to devote certain parts of it to memory, as is often the case with scripture. It is worth noting that when scripture is quoted, or writings that should be considered scriptural, they are done as the highest authority, and this also is important in establishing their use as scripture.
If a person has achieved the goals which you are aiming for, then the actions of that person should essentially be followed, and that person should be a role model. If a mystic quotes the writings or teachings of some other sage, then it is assumed that he does so in full knowledge of what mysticism is, and of what is helpful to the aspirant, and that he is therefore doing the same thing as one who recommends a good teacher. It is in this spirit that we see Plato quoting Hesiod and Homer, for example, and always as the absolute highest authority in whatever matter is being discussed. It is assumed that Plato was a great mystic, and highly attained, and therefore if he saw such sages as indisputable authority, then so should we. And, if as the oral tradition states, everything written about by Plato was for some exact reason, and to teach some certain thing, then the quoting of scripture by Plato will be no small event, but will indicate the sacredness of the scripture and the correctness of the sage.
Seeing all of this, we may assert the following: that scripture produces good students, and that good students of mysticism recommend the scriptures. Therefore, on the authority of the student who has achieved the goals of mysticism, scripture will be seen as a good teacher of mysticism, and will therefore have great value to any hopeful student. Indeed, it will be worth more than all the world’s gold.
The Several Kinds of Scripture
There are two essential kinds (kategorias) of scripture, Lesser and Greater. Greater scriptures are those which are written either by someone who is himself divine, or by someone clearly divinely inspired. Of the lesser scriptures there are three kinds: those written by students of divine teachers, those written by teachers who are excellent but not divine, and those which have over time been proven to be true and useful for the student of mysticism. Of the three kinds of lesser scripture, the first is called primary lesser scripture, or disciplic. The second is called secondary lesser scripture, or excellent. The third is called tertiary lesser scripture, or proven, and this indicates their relative value. Of the two kinds of greater scripture, the first is called primary greater scripture, or hieratic. The second kind is called secondary greater scripture, or entheastic. Thus, there are five kinds of scripture in our lineage, and they are organized in this fashion:
- First, Hieratic
- Second, Entheastic
- Third, Disciplic
- Fourth, Excellent
- Fifth, Proven
Of these, the first corresponds to the aither, perfect spirit, since a perfect spirit gives it. The second corresponds to fire, since it is inspired, which means the inner divinity has been kindled like a flame by some god. The third corresponds to air, since it is a transmitted tradition passed between master and disciple, and therefore developed from a medium of communication. The fourth corresponds to water, since it is based on what perfect things the teacher has attracted to himself, and which can therefore adequately reflect. The fifth corresponds to earth, since it is a collection of things verified by time and experience. In this manner they descend from purest to most dense, and the descent of authority in scripture follows divine law by mimicking the descent of pure energy.
It may also be said that the since the descent of energy is also the progression of number, the five scriptures also correspond to the mystical progression of number. For that which is hieratic comes from one thing only, the divine master. On the other hand, that which is entheastic comes from two things: the inspiring force and the inspired person. That which is disciplic comes from three things: the teacher, the student, and their relationship. That which is called excellent comes from four things: teachers, scriptures, the author’s understanding of them, and the author himself. Finally that which is called proven consists of five principles: teachers, scriptures, the author’s understanding of them, the author himself, and the experiences which validate the truth of the writing. I can speak no further on why the scriptures are arranged as they are, their numerological interpretations, and so on, publicly. Those who pursue theurgy, however, will discover such things in time. We may, however, consider some basic things concerning the two general divisions of scripture.
Greater scripture, to start with first principles, is seen as scripture proper. We say this because though it is only necessary that scripture be absolutely useful and entirely true, in order for it to be completely scripture it should also be purely holy. Since holiness cannot be given to anything except by something else which is holy, only that which is written by holy sages will be complete scripture. As the two kinds of greater scripture suggest, however, the agent of holiness need not be the physical hand which writes the book. If it is, then all the better, and for that reason the writings of an enlightened master are considered the highest form of scripture. Yet still we also say that entheastic writings are holy, since even if the vehicle through which they manifest is not enlightened, the god or great spirit who is acting through that vehicle certainly is. This god, then, should be considered as the actual author, and will therefore confer holiness upon the book.
The reader may wonder why entheastic texts are not considered the primary greater scripture, since the active agent appears to be some manner of god, or at least the messenger of a god (as in the case of a Muse). My initial answer would be that such a thing must be unlawful, since hieratic scripture comes from what is single, whereas entheastic scripture comes from what is dual. Hieratic scripture will therefore be most aligned with The Good, which is itself also One. This is the Pythagorean answer, but not the immediately practical one. The more practical explanation would be that a hieratic scripture will always be a perfect expression, whereas an entheastic scripture is not necessarily a perfect expression. Let me explain, since it is important that you know this.
In hieratic works, the author is a divine being in the flesh, and a liberated adept. Being in total union with the divinity of his own self, that divinity will always express itself perfectly. In other words, there is no part of the enlightened man which will disagree with the writing agent, which in this instance is the consciousness of the person itself. The enlightened sage is in perfect harmony with himself, and so everything he writes will come out exactly as it was intended to, and will be incapable of disagreeing with cosmic law. The entheastic scripture, on the other hand, only requires that the person be pure enough to be inspired by a god without great conflict. The person himself does not necessarily have to be perfected or enlightened, and therefore will not necessarily be in absolute harmony with divine will and cosmic law. The god which inspires the author will of course be in perfect union with divinity, but that does not mean that this perfect union will be participated in by the active mind of the person. The mind of the person, therefore, may err, since it is not entirely aligned with divinity. No matter how clearly the inspiring god tries to communicate something, the mind of the receiver may interpret the message slightly wrongly, or misunderstand something, and commit this misunderstanding to writing. Or, even if the inspired message is received with perfect clarity, the individual may reread what he wrote in the state of ecstasy, and think to make some simple corrections, not realizing that everything was exactly as it was for some divine reason. Therefore entheastic scripture, though of great quality and value, is still lesser than hieratic scripture. For hieratic scripture will always be completely true, but entheastic scripture may require some small amount of rectification. I am of course only speaking of comparatively perfectly revealed scripture, and not of the jumbled collections of mediumistic writings.
I am permitted to recommend the writings of Homer, Hesiod, and Plato for hieratic scripture, and the works of Sophocles and other divine poets for entheastic scripture. In so doing, I must inform the reader of an important point. The Greater Scriptures are called so not only because of their imminence, but because a great soul (“megalopsyche”) is needed to truly understand them. The great masters of all times tended to conceal the most divine teachings in the forms of mythologies, stories, and legends, so that their interpretations would never outlast their original forms. In this way, the original form of the teaching survived continually as the mythos, and every new generation of student could decide for himself what the meaning was instead of being forced to rely only on interpreters of the truth.
Lesser scripture we still call scripture, but by true meaning it is not complete scripture. It may possess certain flaws, owing to the imperfection of the author. For, unlike in the case of entheastic scripture, in all lesser scriptures the author is the vehicle and source, and the author is accepted as not being perfect. In other words, it is generally thought that the author was not a god-man, and therefore, even if he was liberated to some degree, or had taken some part of Gnosis, he was not perfect and cannot make anything perfect. Certainly, the reader should know, it would be unlawful if an imperfect thing could make something perfect, as though something partial could create something whole and complete. For, as example, the number 3 has within it three 1‘s, as well as a 2 and a 1. Yet, within themselves, neither 2 nor 1 has 3 within, but something must be added, something must be further complicated, in order for 3 the emerge from them.
With this it is plain to see that an imperfect author can write nothing perfect unless something is added to him which brings him to a state of completion, and therefore renders him capable of producing wholes. I say this because, I think, many authors in the outer world, that strange, frightening, and temporal world of the uninitiated, think that they produce perfect works, even if for the sake of apparent humility they deny the same. The proper approach will always be for an imperfect author to accept that he would require further completion, and wholeness of his own being, to produce perfect works. The best an imperfect author may hope to do is to present half-truths, imperfect truths which seem correct so far as the author’s experience has affirmed, and which may hopefully be used as a foundation for the later attachment of whole truths, either by the author himself in a later and more complete condition, or by a reader who has gone beyond the author in completion. If you are reading this, and are yourself an author, know that you will only produce works of beauty when you understand your own lawful limitations, and instead of trying to exceed them, you build within them. A small but beautiful palace is closer to the good than a large but incomplete one.
Such authors as these are the authors of what is called “lesser scripture.” It is not divine, and so cannot be seen as true scripture, yet their practical value has been so useful that theurgists have honored their achievements as scripture. For they, too, are often quoted as being absolute authority, and are quoted sometimes by the best of mystics, and so we must confer to their holy judgment and make use of what they clearly consider to be of value and authority.
The most perfect of all lesser scriptures is that which is called disciplic. The word in the Greek here does not indicate disciplic in the sense of being a student, but instead in the sense as being a successor, a “torch-bearer.” Thus those works which are considered disciplic scripture are those which are written not just by any student of some divine master, but by the highest caliber of student, one worthy of being seen as a successor of the master’s teachings. Such a student will have the honorable continuation of his master’s lineage as his highest and most noble goal, and will therefore certainly work towards preserving the teachings of his lineage in as pure a fashion as possible. Thus it is held that a book written by such a disciple will almost be as though it was written by the master himself. Only subtle differences in understanding will allow for some imperfections, though these can be greatly compensated for if the disciple only writes about what teachings he understood perfectly. In this way it will only be the depth of understanding which lacks something, and not the facticity of it. It is also very possible that such a disciple, being of a high grade, will eventually become divine himself, and this reveals the two sub-categories of all lesser scripture, pregnostic and gnostic, which we will speak of in a few moments.
The next grade of scripture after the disciplic is that which is called excellent. Here the term, as in its Greek form, indicates a greatness of majesty owing to its own exemplary qualities, and this is what makes it different from the disciplic scripture: it is great owing to the author’s own greatness in and of himself, without any necessary secondary associations. Again, as with entheastic scripture earlier, some may wonder if this in fact should not be a higher grade than that which is disciplic, since a disciple is great only because of the greatness of his teacher, whereas the great author is great because of his own worth. Indeed we may wonder at this, since in the earlier instance of hieratic and entheastic scripture we agreed that numerically the heiratic must be closer to the good, since it has one source, and the entheastic has two. And here, also, the excellent seems to have one source, and the disciplic two, and so the excellent may appear to be greater.
Even seeing this to appear to be the case, though, we affirm that the truth of the matter is different, and reveals the disciplic scripture to be of greater value. This is said by the mystics because the disciple has a pure line to perfection, through the clear example and pristine instructions of the godly teacher, and having had such a perfect guide, is less likely to err. Indeed as long as the disciple stays to the straight and clear path of always using the pure teachings of his master, it is as though the master himself had done the teaching, and the possibility of misunderstanding on the author’s part becomes minimal. For an excellent teacher, however, who must certainly also be a skilled mystic, but who does not have a clear and direct lineage to pass on the teachings of, some misunderstandings may find their way into the writings. Such a person will use the teachings of both the scriptures and of other teachers, but being not a part of a clear lineage, may not have been instructed in how to approach to more veiled meanings of those teachings. Thus he will be excellent because he appears to have developed a clear and excellent understanding of the ancient teachings, but because he may not have been initiated into the spirit of those teachings, that insight is only the insight which anyone else, having achieved certain states, would also have had. Likewise, this manner of scripture seems good because its author had a great understanding of the apparent meanings of things, but the apparent is only one side of the ancient teachings, and therefore the author may err in trying to decipher the most esoteric and less obvious meanings.
Excellent scripture is therefore considered of great value, since it is produced from a good understanding of an exhaustive number of resources (typically), but is considered almost diametrically the opposite of hieratic scripture. An excellent scripture contains interpretations or presentations of what appears to be true, to the author’s understanding, from a wide array of different teachings and writings, and so comes from many. Hieratic scripture, however, contains only the presentation of truth, and not interpretations or understandings, and presents them from only one source: the spiritual eye of the master.
The final grade of scripture before writings fall away into the general obscurity of opinions, reasons, etc, is that which is called proven scripture. Proven scripture walks a misty line between being scriptural at all, and just being a normal book on some spiritual thing. Still, however, we can identify that it must be present, since there are clearly some scriptures which are great because they are disciplic, some which are great because the author was great, and some which do not seem to belong to either of these, but which the general opinion of accomplished mystics affirm are useful, and quote as authoritative. All of these books fall under the category of “proven,” since time and experience have indicated that they are of value.
A proven scripture will usually resemble an excellent scripture. It will typically be a compilation of various sources, with extracted information from sources which the author considered to be authentic. It will provide interpretations, not such as are derived from initiation, but as are derived from a general knowledge and the use of some investigation and contemplation. The author of a proven scripture, however, is not necessarily of a grade high enough to be considered a great mystic. In fact, he may have very little to show for himself in the form of good works. Thus into this category we relegate many scholars, or those with great minds but no appetite for actually practically pursuing mysticism. They will have great ideas or opinions, and experience may indicate that these opinions were more or less correct, and if nothing else, they were useful for the aspirant at the time. In other words, they were not misguiding.
Sometimes the author of such a book may be the reincarnation of an adept who truly was a successful mystic, but which for some reason has not capitulated in the current incarnation. In this instance the author will have insight which, as the reader grows in his own mystical path, will be found to be very true and on the mark. Still, due to the clumsiness of the mind in interpreting the knowledge of the soul, it can never be taken as the authority of experience on the part of the author.
Many of the literary works of hermeticism fall into the category of proven scripture. Agrippa, Paracelsus, and a number of medieval occult philosophers wrote books which can be considered proven scripture, in so far as more advanced mystics generally express an appreciation of them, or recommend their writings to students of certain grades. In the last two centuries many of the authors of the occult renaissance also produced books that can be considered “proven,” since they conveyed many philosophies and opinions which ultimately prove to be consistently useful for study. This was greatly enhanced by the newfound availability of previously unknown or concealed manuscripts, through large literary donations to public libraries and archives from private noble households. Whoever could read them first, due to a knowledge of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, or Hindi, became the first public teachers of those philosophies in the modern west.
Appended to all three kinds of lesser scripture are two subdivisions: gnostic and reasonable. Under the gnostic division are all authors who achieved gnosis, either before or after they wrote what they did. Thus if a book was written by an author before he reached gnosis, but the author later achieved it, the book is considered gnostic lesser scripture. This indicates that the teachings of the book, even if it was written before gnosis was achieved, must be in line or compatible with the attainment of gnosis, since the author, believing the things he wrote, used them to achieve realization. Sadly there are very few gnostic lesser scriptures, since the west has a tendency to produce scholars and not practitioners.
Of a lesser grade than gnostic writings are those which are reasonable. The author of a reasonable lesser scripture did not achieve gnosis in that life, as far as anyone authorized to decide such things can tell. Therefore it remains to be decided whether the teachings of that book contribute anything valuable to the achievement of gnosis, or if, as lesser scripture, it simply contains information that a “good mystic” should know, even if it is not immediately helpful. If it is a category of lesser scripture, then we may at least discern that those who have achieved gnosis found it to be relevant to the path, and commendable to students.
We have established with this article not only the nature of scripture, but also why something is scriptural, how it becomes such, and what the resulting grades of scripture are. I undertook to write this article because the online community of freely-accessible teachings seemed to be greatly lacking in any knowledge of the subject, and I hope that, at least in the reader, I have remedied this problem. To my knowledge, nothing has ever been written clearly about this subject from the theurgic point of view, at least out of those things which are freely available to searchers. Thus, I hope that this will be a good introduction, that it was written clearly, and that it does not lead to any misunderstanding of what scripture is to a mystic. I have presented this from the teachings of the lineage which I came from, but organized it for general viewing on my own. I do this in a hope to make something which usually becomes an inherent understanding only after years of discipleship, at least moderately understandable after reading only a brief article.
You will notice, though, that I have given no list of scriptures for the free study of the dabbler. On the one hand, this is because I believe that dabbling from source to source, picking up this and that book, going to this and that teacher, only creates inner turmoil, not real knowledge. Thus I do not support the dabbler in my writings, but instead encourage my readers to seek apprenticeship to the wise once they are found. In that light, if you wish to learn theurgic scriptures, become a theurgist and your teacher will provide you with them. The second reason why no list is given is because of an ancient but powerful and true saying, that the parables of the wise are mercury. In other words, if left in their natural and apparent form, then they, like Mercury, are poisonous. If, however, the true philosopher has realized their inner meanings, then they, like Mercury, give eternal life.
Take refuge in the wise,