It was my very great pleasure to be shown around the Royal College of Physician’s exhibition, Scholar, Courtier, Magician: The Lost Library of John Dee, last week before the event opened to t…
Happy Holidays! I took a break from the internet for December and celebrated Yule, Baalsamin, Christmas, New Years, did some traveling, and made a lot of beer!
This came up in a chat – and it’s wrong. Lets explore why. This intersects a couple of my interests including Islam, the Bundy Ranch, and esoteric morality. I will also apologize in advance: I am not a muslim nor a scholar on the koran. I have had some really neat discussions with converts to Islam.
So right off the bat we’ll deal with the broadest dismissal of this idea: Lumping all people of one religion into the “bad apples” basket is wrong. Not all Occultists don’t kill babies, not all Christians bomb abortion clinics, not all Jews run banks, etc. Not all people of the Islamic faith are interested in starting World War 3 or are party to terrorism. Yeah, I think folks could go a long way towards condemning people on the fringe who actually do these things, but they’re on the fringe. Actually what Islam really needs is something like the Jefferson Bible, where only the words from the divine are actually expressed in the Koran, which contains a lot of Mohameds pontificating about life in general and actually not a whole lot of divine inspiration. It’s a lot like the Bible actually in that respect where the New Testament is actually the meat of the thing.
But lets take a walk into the actual revelations that Mohamed received. We know a few things off the bat: Mohamed is doing something like the Abramelin Operation, and doing a lot of sitting out in nature. He’s probably eating the local cactus, and he is visited by an angel. Can we apply hermetic concepts to that and tease out how this was supposed to work? Sure! The Holy Books are a treasure trove of Hermetic ideas, and the koran is no exception. Actually the Hermetic Tradition owes a lot to Arab magic.
The koran is not presented in chronological order – in fact one of the frustrating things about it is that Mohamed (or subsequent apostles) rearranged the haditha (speeches) into what they felt was order of importance and truthieness rather than chronological order. While it makes the koran easier to read than, lets say, the Bible where there’s multiple accounts or references to events of Christ, it means that the dealings with the Divine messengers tend to occur whereever that particular person discusses them. The first revelation is documented in Chapter 53, Verses 4-10. (Later commentary in Sura 96:1) Crowley people should take note that the chapter is named The Star. Avoid the wikipedia koran, it’s written for people with no grasp of language. Interlinear notes:
I swear by the star when it goes down. Your companion does not err, nor does he go astray; Nor does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that is revealed, He was taught by one Mighty in Power, The Lord of Strength; so he attained completion*, And he is in the highest part of the horizon. Then he drew near, then he bowed, So he was the measure of two bows or closer still** And He revealed unto His slave that which He revealed.
*The Lord of Strength has enabled the angel to manifest
**About 10ft or so I believe is correct. Russia preserved the old units of measurement for the curious up until recently. It was extremely common to take units of measurement from items intimate to the measurer. Note that this refers to a bow as in archery – the are completely different words in the original dialect.
A couple of points here – yes I mixed translations to cherry-pick ideas. But also notice that aspects of Allah are used here to indicate the magical function required to accomplish a task. Allah as The Lord of Strength has literally knit the angel together. The star is the sun. Mighty in Power indicates Allah means serious business. Note that Allah is never directly named, but rather always assumes titles. One (or more) of those titles is to be hidden, which is shades of Enochian. And finally, as in any proper invocation, the person perceiving the Angel is held captive to it. Also of note: The sura records the angel as appearing with the “ringing of a bell”.
We could hit low hanging fruit here ans mention that only one of the names is really used negatively (Al Qahhar – the subduer) but it occurs exactly once in the Koran. Point being, nowhere in the Koran where Mohamed is having a divine experience and interacting directly with the supernatural is Allah portrayed as vengeful or spiteful or generally dickish. There’s plenty of that later where early Muslims say that God will punish, but that tends to be along the lines of people acting outside the moral guidance of the koran rather than quotes directly from a messenger.
But that’s an important point also – when Allah punishes people, it’s typically written in the Donald Trump speaking voice of: “They will be the losers” as in, someone has forfeit paradise by knowing and willingly committing indecency rather than this idea manifest in later “Enlightenment” period Stoic commentary where sins are sins despite intentions.
To expand on that idea, Gabriel is sometimes called Namus in the koran. It’s a Greek loanword, which is why I usually argue Mohamed was anything but illiterate, and means Virtue. If we reword the passage to read the Angel’s name as Virtue, then what Mohamed is doing is purifying himself to become virtuous in the eyes of the One Thing. Since Mohamed has had the strength to be Virtuous, he has successfully evoked the Angel by our terminology in the occult. Spoiler alert: One of Mohamed wives (Khadija) was fluent in Greek and Hebrew, according to Aisha.
“O Muhammad! thou art the apostle of God and I am Gabriel.” – again, this idea that Mohamed was virtuous before meeting the Angel.
If Mohamed is virtuous in the eyes of the One Thing before meeting the Angel, what then is Mohamed doing to be virtuous? If Allah is warlike, then we should assume he’s a great warrior. Except he’s not. He’s a merchant. (Ever seen a merchant who can’t read or write? Me neither.) He’s not even particularly religious, because he doesn’t have parents, because he’s an orphan. In fact Mohamed himself isn’t really a clear historical figure – similar to some of the Christian disciples – because the title merely means Praiseworthy. But again, the gist of the idea isn’t that he is a messenger, but that he is Virtuous. We could examine the Suras here, but this is where we enter grain-of-salt territory that there would be a strong effort to whitewash him.
What we do know from general historical commentary was that Mohamed was probably ethnocentric, since everyone in the nomad group would have been related by blood. We also know he would have been pagan like modern Asatru or Wicca, where a tribe had a patron God. We know that the Gods were not antagonistic towards one another since the original Kabaa housed 360 separate idols. Most of the pre-islamic era gods were of trees, groves, and wells. What we are pretty sure of is that Mohamed was at least some sort of Christian, having met Bahira during a trading caravan to Syria. The meeting with Bahira was a result of Mohamed disregarding the social norms of his family (and their Pagan gods) and coming invited to a Feast. After that is a bunch of political ends, but the gist of the stories are that Mohamed is actually a pretty good deal maker and everyone seems generally happy with his negotiations. Importantly, this means he’s treating people fairly and upholding his end of the deal. He’s not flawless, and in fact a few of those deals fall through and lead to fighting, but he’s doing his best as he understands the world. More importantly there’s more shades of Enochina here where Gabriel refutes small portions of the text as being delivered by demons. The sad part here is really a broad view that most of Mohamed’s morality seems to come from economic ends rather than moral decisionmaking. He’s navigating the political spectrum based on a love of commerce rather than mystical devotion. However, nowhere is it supposed that Allah favors the economically successful. Mohamed implements a sort of social security for the elderly, and espouses charity, and (maybe since widowers had cash) allows women more rights. In contrast to previous societies, this is really progressive stuff, and seems to have a sharp contrast to modern (Saudi family) Islam. Food for thought.
Is Allah a war god? Not really. Allah seems to be a god of progressiveness as a product of mysticism and economy rather than war. I won’t say that the wartime stuff doesn’t play a role in the Koran – it does factor significantly into Mohamed’s later years – but that’s after he’s attacked. The bulk of the divine inspiration in the Koran is Mohamed riding around on Sleipnir (or on mountaintops) and having conversations with spirits and then commenting on those channelings with his family or friends.
(Also relevant if you’re wiccan and have been following the wikipedia links – Mohamed had a “mark of prophecy” between his shoulderblades. It’s a skin tag the size of a “pigeon egg”.)