Tag Archives: adepts

Superior Beings

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Superior Beings. If They Exist, How Would We Know?: Game-Theoretic Implications of Omnipotence, Omniscience, Immortality, and Incomprehensibility by Steven J Brams:

Steven J Brams' Superior Beings

 

The plural “Beings” in the title of this book is a little misleading. The text is not a discussion of polytheistic deity, angels, praeterhuman extraterrestrials, or hidden adepts. It is instead an application of game theory mathematics to the issue of relationships between a hypothetical person (P) and a “superior being” (SB). Moreover, the “superior being” postulated is of the sovereign type common to Abrahamic monotheism. In creating his preference rankings for applying various 2×2 game matrices to relations between SB and P, Brams uses interpretations of biblical narratives as justifications. My own esoteric interests had me coming to this book with curiosity about its conclusions relative to mahatmas or secret chiefs, but I find that its models are far more relevant to relations between an aspirant and his personal genius, or Holy Guardian Angel.

“Superior being” seems to be a deliberate weakening of the “supreme being” used in Western theological parlance. Brams is interested in modeling relations with a being whose powers and horizons immeasurably exceed the human, but he is not concerned with the traditional and trivial paradoxes of rigorous omnipotence. By positing an SB that submits to the calculus of the games in this book, he suggests that the answer to the question “Could God create a rock so big that He couldn’t lift it?” is certainly yes. And he accurately points out the fact that some passages of the Bible indicate a God of vast but finite power.

Still, the dependence on biblical notions of divine behavior is awfully limiting for anyone with a genuine philosophical interest in “superior beings.” The author seems to admit as much when he refers to a game schematic “which seems to offer a generic representation of God’s retribution in the Bible — and maybe elsewhere” (139). (Even so, the notion of the Biblical God as the national genius of the Hebrews makes these game representations reasonable on a certain level.) Brams does provide some interesting challenges to Pascal’s Wager, and he concludes with a novel perspective on the Problem of Evil.

The book is also an engaging introduction to the mathematical techniques involved in game theory analyses. Brams presumes no prior experience in game theory on the reader’s part, and provides a rich context for examining these logical tools. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Inside the Occult

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Inside the occult: The true story of Madame H. P. Blavatsky by Henry Steel Olcott:

Henry Steel Olcott's Inside the Occult

 

Inside the Occult is a 1975 reprint of the first of six volumes from Henry Steel Olcott’s Old Diary Leaves, in which he provides a memoir of the Theosophical Society, for which he was a founder and the first president. Although Daniel Grotta-Kurska (better known as a Tolkien biographer) provides a new introduction for this reprint, Olcott’s original foreword is omitted. This volume covers the period of 1874-1879, and might have been titled “H.P.B. and Me: Origins of the Theosophical Society.”

Old Diary Leaves was written after the death of H.P. Blavatsky, the famous sybil who had been Olcott’s chief collaborator in the creation of the Theosophical Society, as well as their most conspicuous link to the Masters, Adepts, or to use the later-standard Theosophical jargon, Mahatmas. Olcott and Blavatsky had had some disagreements in the period between the events described in this volume and her later death, but his memories of her here are highly complimentary. She is presented as noble in intention, if flawed in character, and certainly in possession of supernatural powers, although these are employed in strange mixtures with trickery for purposes that are inscrutable often even to herself. Olcott suggests that he and Blavatsky’s other close associates at the time may have had their perceptions routinely altered by post-hypnotic suggestions of her devising.

Olcott discusses the manner in which H.P.B. served as a vehicle for a variety of adepts who were understood to have guided the creation of the Theosophical Society and the authoring of Isis Unveiled, that erratic compendium of lore that was such a touchstone for the occultism of its era. It is important to note that Blavatsky did not profess herself, nor was she viewed by Olcott as, a passive trance medium for spirits of the dead after the fashion of the Spiritualism of the time. Spiritualism had provided the setting for these two to encounter each other initially, but their own later Theosophical occultist reading of Spiritualist phenomena held such operations to be misunderstood and misrepresented by their advocates. The “spirit controls” were actually “elemental and elementary” spirits being given undeserved free rein among human dupes. Blavatsky’s possession by her Masters was in contrast a conscious collaboration with still-living humans of supernatural puissance.

In a somewhat tentative passage, that is still one of the most striking in the book, Olcott goes so far as to hypothesize that the woman Helena Blavatsky may have actually died a violent death in Europe before he met her, and that during the entire period of their association, she was animated by the combined efforts of a group of adepts who were using her as their worldly instrument.

Not all of the book is about H.P.B., however. The essential narrative is that of the creation of the Theosophical Society, from its initial combinations of Spiritualist and occultist milieux and eventual addition of Eastern (i.e. south Asian) philosophies, up until the establishment of the British branch of the Society and the departure of Olcott and H.P.B. from New York to found the new headquarters in India. A full chapter gives an accounting of the “first cremation in America,” as engineered by the founding Theosophists. And there is a great deal of anecdote and description regarding the New York apartment “Lamasery” where H.P.B. wrote Isis Unveiled, and where Olcott presided over their “little Bohemia” of Victorian esotericism. Also, Olcott discusses his own experiences of astral projection, encounters with adepts, and other phenomena from which he exempts H.P.B. as an actor.

There is just no getting around the Theosophical Society in the history of modern esoteric movements, and this firsthand account of its origins is both entertaining and revealing. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Egyptian Magic in Egyptian Magic by Florence Farr.

“The Egyptian Adepts regarded the conceptions of the mind, the aspirations of the soul, the words of the mouth and the functions of the body, as possessing analogies from which a complete system of rules of life and death could be constructed.” [via]