Friday, 20 July 2012

In Defence of the Theurgical State of Being

Gustave Doré, The Empyrean, 1857.

In defence of theurgy in a disenchanted world yearning for a dimension of irreducible mystery based upon an experience of the sacred as present in the mundane world, I would like to respond to the instinctive rejections of the theurgical state of being held by the modern scientific mind on the one hand, and on the other condemned by sterile religious dogmatism, that for the individuals undergoing theurgical operations their experiences are as real as one experiences physical objects empirically. Although I am not claiming that mystical experiences induced by theurgical ecstasy are hallucinations, are not visions in a state of altered consciousness real in themselves? Do they not inhabit their own space and time, and are visually experienced in one form or the other? In addition, what these arrogant critics need to take into consideration is the fact that such spiritual experiences that transcend the common human condition with their surpassing beauty of vision and revelation might in themselves be ineffable and inexpressible, due to the fact that the rational structure of language at times is inadequate to express such experiences. The conclusion that ordinary sense experience is the only true way for obtaining knowledge and formulating an understanding of the world is merely an expression of contemporary Western European culture. To end I shall quote an anecdote from the Apophthegmata Patrum,

The abbot Olympius told the following story: A pagan priest once came down to Scetis, entered my cell and spent the night there. When he observed the lifestyle of the monks he said to me: “Leading this kind of life, do you see anything of your God?” I said to him: “No.” Then the priest said to me: “When we perform the sacred rites for our God, he hides nothing from us but reveals his mysteries to us. But you, after so many labors, vigils, periods of silence, ascetic exercises say: we see nothing? Altogether it would seem that, if you see nothing, you keep evil thoughts in your hearts which separate you from your God and that because of this he does not reveal his mysteries to you.” I went away and reported the words of the priest to the elders, and they marveled and said that is was so; for unclean thoughts separate God from humans.[1]

[1] Quoted in Richard August Reitzenstein, Poimandres: Studien zur Griechisch-Ägyptischen und Literatur, 1904, page 34.


  1. Thanks for posting this! To the point and so true.

  2. I really appreciate these words here, it's something that is on my mind a lot. The 'profane', as many tend to call them, love to discredit powerful yet subjective experiences as anything that could possibly 'exist', and in doing so they unknowingly worship and pay homage to Mammon. Would you mind if I quoted your sentiment here on my blog? I will of course credit your name.

    1. You are more than welcome to quote my sentiment on your blog!