Don’t believe me. Fine, let me say the same sentence to you using many more words.
What was the Age of Pisces? It was the Astrological Age which began somewhere around 100 BCE and 100 CE. An astrological age lasts around 2100 years, meaning we are currently close, or have pretty much already entered into, the Age of Aquarius.
Lots of people talk about the Age of Aquarius, and how it will be a meritocratic, technological age. An age of free knowledge, open practice of magick, decentralization, sexual fluidity, and indeed the break down of many fixed, dual structures. But I want to talk a bit about the Age of Pisces before we say goodbye to it for good.
Oh, and before we begin, an update regarding the book: The Tree of Life: A Beginner’s Guide has been updated. A full email announcement regarding the changes has already been sent a while back to those who purchased it. Obviously, this doesn’t impact those who will buy it in future. But just in case you did buy it, but missed the email, here’s a reminder to go download it again.
A Very Brief Introduction
Pisces was the last zodiac sign. Over the course of 26,000 years, the belt of the Zodiac moves slowly, counter clockwise. This is the result of the Earth’s axial tilt. Basically, the Earth ‘wobbles’, and the axis is not actually fixed on the star we call Polaris. As this wobble happens, the Earth’s axis traces a slow circle around the constellation of Draco, the Dragon. This means the ‘Pole Star’ shifts too, based on where the Earth’s north pole is pointing. It is currently Polaris, but one day it will be something else, and back in ancient times it was something else too.
The other effect this has, is that the belt of the Zodiac appears to slowly move around the Earth. We determine the current astrological age by seeing which sign the Sun rises in, during the Summer Solistice. So the Age of Aquarius is when the Sun is rising in the sign of Aquarius (which is pretty much happening now by the way. I checked last year). This process is called Axial Precession, or Precession of the Equinox.
Many astrologers and even magicians make the error of thinking that the made up constellations themselves affect us, which isn’t quite right. I mean, for one, different cultures have different constellations, and the ones we use commonly nowadays really are just arbitrary patterns thought up by ancient Greeks, based on an older Egyptian model. Yes, the Stars do have magickal affects on Earth, just like everything else in the Universe, but they are far away and this affect is minimal. Our lives are affected much more strongly by the elemental forces on Earth, and by the energies of the planets in the Solar System.
The constellations should not be thought of as the cause of astrological phenomena, but rather a convenient ‘clock’. They simply represent the shift in elemental forces cause by the rotation and revolution of the Earth, and the planets. Similarly, the Axial Precession represents the completion of various cycles in the evolution of the Earth. Every astrological age is influenced by the archetypal energies ascribed to the current astrological sign, and the planet which is assigned rulership over it. But when did this cycle begin?
Presumably, the Earth has been wobbling and going through this cycle for hundreds of millions of years, over and over. But when talking specifically about the current cycle, we of the Hermetic tradition take Leo, the sign ruled by the Sun, to be the first. Not Aries (which is the first sign of the year, since it brings spring, but not the first sign of the Axial Precession).
The reasons for this are simple, because human ‘civilisation’ as we currently understand it, began around 12,000 BCE. This was the time when the Holoscene epoch began. It is also around this time that the first Agricultural Revolution began, and historians usually consider the invention of agriculture as the first step of ‘civilisation’.
Also, in the Hermetic tradition it is believed that beginnings of high magick date back to this time period. Calculating from there, we get the current time period, and the Age of Aquarius.
What was the Age of Pisces
Pisces is the astrological sign ruled by Jupiter.
What does Pisces represent? Any basic book on astrology will tell you: dreams, visions, fantasies and spirituality. It is mutable Water, meaning it is very passive, and has to do with emotions, feelings and subconscious impressions.
And how were all the great Piscean religions started?
Through the dreams, visions and prophecies of great Seers, Prophets, and Mystics. It spread through rumours, through wandering sages, through stories. The rumour of some great magician who challenged the authority of the Emperor and was crucified in a far away land was enough to turn the ENTIRE Roman empire Christian. The idea and stories of the Buddha wandering from place to place and sharing his wisdom, which was further shared by others, was the basis of spreading Buddhism across half a continent. And those religions which did not start in this time, adopted a Piscean character. Hinduism became devotional, Judaism became mystical. Islam is entirely emotional and based on feeling and trance. Even the Pagan religions which persisted in this time became highly reliant on divinations and utterances of shamans.
The Piscean cultures and civilisations of the last 2000 years have been sensual, placing a great amount of importance on emotional impact of symbols. Things were true if enough people felt they were true, and most rulers maintained power through shows and displays of their authority, like wearing impressive clothes and using symbols and banners and words which left an impression. Subconscious impressions. It is also no wonder that humanity became a highly seafaring race, and the great Empires towards the end of the Age of Pisces all held great control over the seas (Maybe in the Age of Aquarius we will perfect air/ space transport, although I do not foresee space Empires just yet).
Pisces is ruled by Jupiter, and Jupiter is the planet of benevolence, wealth, kindness, opulence, luxury, majesty and royalty. What was the dominant form of government in these last 2000 years? No, not monarchy. Feudalism. Feudalism, where power was maintained by the concept of “royal” and “noble” blood, and the hierarchy was dictated by Jupiterian concepts like wealth, valour, honour, dignity etc.
It was not military might, since that sort of power structure belongs to the Age of Aries. Yes, military played a role, as it always will, but it is generally known that the greatest warrior was not automatically made King. A royal claim by an heir with noble blood, superseded any military strength. Obviously, institutional religions played a big role. Consider the Catholic Church, and how strong they were. It is literally a full on Piscean institution. In fact, did you know that the funny hat the Pope wears is literally a fish. It comes from the Ancient Sumerian sea god Dagon, who had a fish on his head. Over centuries, it has ended up on the Pope’s head. Pisces is also the sign of the Fish.
Jupiter rules benevolence and kindness. In this past Age, benevolence and kindness were considered the greatest virtues, and all who had power and status were expected to be well mannered, kind and generous with their wealth.
Every astrological Age decays over time though. The Age of Aries ended when people had become too violent, and when the abuse of power was common and military strength was a tool of oppression, and used as justification to rule. This is why Piscean religions like Christianity and Buddhism, which preached mercy and tolerance, so quickly replaced the martial cults and creeds of the past, and left a permanent impact on all the world. But in the last century, we watched the Age of Pisces reach it’s end, as man became obsessed with wealth and material pleasure, and with a near fanatical obsession to satiate emotional needs and wants. Money became the sole object of worship and desire, both the means and the end to all endeavor. Wars were fought for money and material resources, and people’s opinions, beliefs and values all became heavily reliant on emotions, and everyone who wanted power had to make appeals to emotion, and those in power made great shows of false kindness and opulence.
Celebrity worship is perhaps the most overt symbol of a Piscean excess. The worship of people surrounded by Jupiterian symbols, and their followers who feel emotionally connected, and even reliant upon, them.
Pisces is also ruled by Neptune. Neptune is a planet whose influence was not strongly felt until the last century or so, when it revealed itself. Neptune rules psychology, psychosis, psychadelics. Now, this post is not about the end of Pisces and the birth of Aquarius. I am simply giving an idea of what the Age of Pisces was, and how to think about it.
Some of you may say I am interpreting history through a very specific lens. But that is precisely what history is. All ‘history’ is a narrative, an interpretation through a certain lens. If we simply take the facts and a sequence of events as they happened, without any interpretation, then that is not history, that is a chronicle.
To divide history into astrological ages like this is no more or less ‘scientific’ or ‘academic’ than, say, dividing it up into things like the classical and medieval eras. Those are also just interpretations and narratives.
But what was the Piscean lie?
Look at the signs of Pisces and Aquarius. Both represent duality. But they both show it in a slightly different way. Aquarius shows duality as fluid, as two different strands which weave and mingle together, and then separate. Like a double helix formed from energy. But Pisces shows duality as being fixed and held in place, and even opposing.
By the way, anyone who ever wondered why Piscean religions were so obsessed with categorizing and defining ‘good’ and ‘bad’, will now see why. It isn’t just morality they separated, but gender too. Everything became one way or another, yin and yang, with little room for doubt. You either were a peasant, or a noble, and unlike modern times these categories did not shift so easily. It was exceedingly rare for, say, a peasant to become a noble, and even a nobleman who had lost all his wealth and land and castles, was STILL a noble and had to be treated as such. So, Piscean culture was highly dual and rigid. And it was a very emotional culture, so rational arguments against this would hold little weight.
Many grimoires of magick from the Middle Ages, to a modern magician, may seem….outdated, and dogmatic.
Let’s take some popular ones. The Book of the Sacred Magic of Arbamelin. This is a popular one from the 14th century, and is most likely the basis of many later grimoires like the Ars Goetia. The first sections of this book document the journeys of a figure called Abraham the Jew. He travels across Europe, Arabia, Egypt and other regions. He meets Kabbalists, Christian mystics, Egyptian and Islamic magi, Pagans, Black Magicians, and each of them teaches him some small part of magick and wisdom. In the end, Abraham concludes that the best and truest magick he learned was from the only High Adept he met, which is an Egyptian mage named Abramelin.
In the second and third sections, he explains the basics of an elaborate working called the Abramelin ritual. However, as he explains what magick is, he immediately starts off by criticising and decrying paganism, polytheism and idolatory. He criticizes elemental magick, astrology, alchemy, and every other craft besides Kabbalah and Christian mysticism. Although he has so far defined them really well, he now repeatedly emphases Abrahamic values and the importance of prayer, and warns people against anything besides that, and also how everything they do must also be for the betterment of ‘their neighbours’. This sentiment is then echoed in later grimories like the Ars Goetia, which also seem to be emphasizing religious worship. It’s almost like they’re compensating for something.
Let’s take the Bhagawat Gita. It is not a religious scripture…not really anyway. It was almost certainly written by mystics. It is a very funny little book, because it seems to contradict itself so often. It begins by declaring that all systems of class, gender and caste are arbitrary in spirituality, and no individual is held back from spiritual awakening because of their birth. It also declares that traditional religion and priesthood have become erroneous, and that the study of scriptures can be a distraction. But then, towards the end it seemingly retraces its steps, reiterating feudalism, casteism, the importance of following religious norms and emphasizes divisions between people.
What of Dr. John Dee? His diaries on Enochain magick are full of seeming dead ends, incomplete systems, seemingly random and arbitrary materials, and a repeated attempt to interpret everything within the Christian framework. I mean, that’s why it’s called ‘Enochain’ magick, even though the ‘enochian’ Angels never called themselves that, nor indicated that they had anything to do with Enoch. At one point in his dialogue with the Angels, they straight up tell him not to bother with worship and religious observances, and also that Jesus was a mystic, not the literal son of god, and need not be worshipped. Yet, he continues his Christian theological interpretations, seemingly.
Why did the Sufi mystics, even though they clearly did not believe in Islamic dogma, pretend to follow and accept Sharia law? I mean, half of them didn’t, and these were chased out of Arabia, but the other half did. Even after their beliefs and contemplations became significantly different from Islamic theology, they continued to attempt to fit it in with what the clerics said.
Or what of the Hindu prophetic figure and theologian, Adi Shankaracharya?
Towards the end of his life, he went off to live alone on the top of a mountain. Here, he had a bunch of spiritual visions and experiences with the Goddess Shakti, and composed what is essentially a magickal grimoire called the Saundarya Lahiri. This is very similar in style to European grimoires, and contains hyms, spells, pentacles and sigils, along with detailed descriptions of invocation and the Maha Yantra.
However, this book has many strange instructions. For example, some hyms are required to be chanted, say, forty thousand times, and under very specific conditions, to be effective. This sort of thinking has persisted in Hindu magick, where exceedingly long and elaborate instructions are given for basic magickal workings. So elaborate, that no one in his right mind would even consider attempting them, unless you want to be in the wilderness on the midnight of the Spring Equinox standing before a roaring fire and repeating a mantra eighty thousand times, after having fasted and abstained from speech and sex for several weeks.
Or let’s take the Ars Goetia? Are you really going to wear a lion skin belt, pray to Jesus, then invoke demons from the Bible who shall appear breathing sulfur?
What about the Grand Grimoire. Half the recipes in that book will either poison you or kill you, and I genuinely cannot imagine that anyone in history has tried some of the ones which involve ingesting toxic metals, or growing a bean plant inside a decapitated human head for attaining wealth.
Hey, and how about my very own Golden Dawn tradition? Anyone who’s read the Golden Dawn books might find that there’s plenty of information that’s contradictory, seemingly incomplete, distorted, and just outright WRONG.
You get the point. I mean, if you can call upon a Spirit by merely chanting it’s name and visualizing, why do some books have you sacrifice rare, exotic virgin animals at a very specific hours of the night using a dagger made from a very specific type of wood from a very specific tree which is found in only very specific places, collected at a specific time, and in a specific way? How can an art, as sacred and universal as Magick, be so goddamn complicated, inaccessible and bizzare?
The short answer is: it isn’t. It’s lies.
I would say about 90% of the instructions and methodology from both grimoires and religious scripture can be safely and easily left out in actual ritual performance. They serve no greater purpose, nor is there any greater or special significance to them. Yes, they are often symbolic, and studying them can help one understand the specific symbolism of that particular occult tradition, but more often than not it only gives you a glimpse into the psyche of the specific magus or mystic who wrote these things, and may not apply to others even from the same tradition.
The Long Answer
The Age of Pisces was a time of duality. It was a time of Good and Evil. These were fixed categories, and the important thing was to align with the Good and reject the Evil.
Many magi of this period, and even ages before, were terrified of one thing: magickal knowledge falling into the wrong hands, and being misused for the purposes of what they would have called ‘evil’. Another danger when simply writing down knowledge that was once well protected and only passed personally from Master to Student, was about how to make sure that only ‘worthy’ students received this knowledge.
The first instance of magickal knowledge being fully committed to writing, in it’s entirety, comes to us from religious scriptures of religions like Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Still not meant for the public, these books are essentially encoded. They use symbols and archetypal stories to get important spiritual ideas and concepts across, and over time these stories and symbols have become more refined. As reading and writing became more widespread, books of magick also began to contain intentional lies and manipulations. Often, it was something as simple as little omissions here and there, or subtle distortions to important symbols, or extra steps to rituals. For example, your average book on alchemy goes from being a set of instructions on metallurgic refining, to being an allegorical, symbolic legend, filled with wild goose chases, and the work appears so complex and troublesome that any ordinary person would simply toss away the book in annoyance, except someone who has already received alchemical instructions or performed basic experiments. A worthy student who can sift through the lies to get at the real matter of the book.
Additionally, bear in mind that the practice of magick leads to a strong, almost radical sense of individualism. But that doesn’t mean people were always free to express this. So, when writing works of magick, they had to be sure to conform to socio-political and cultural norms. For example, even if the writers of the Keys of Solomon were not Christian, they had show that everything they were doing was, in reality, Christian after all, and completely in line with Christian dogma. The author of the Book of Abramelin may have believed that both men and women could do magick, but he still couldn’t say outright that we should reject gender roles, just as the authors of the Bhagawat Gita couldn’t just reject the caste system.
This, by the way, is true even today. I can’t, for example, tell you to reject or even break tyrannical laws in your country, because that would probably get this blog unlisted from search engines and possibly even banned in various countries. So far, I’ve always straddled the edge between what is and isn’t socially, culturally or politically allowed, and will remain that way. Only you can infer my true meaning and beliefs about religion, politics and the modern world in general. I can never state them outright, because I’m not keen to draw undue attention.
To us, living in the Age of Aquarius, “good and evil” seem like superfluous concepts. We live in a time beyond Good and Evil, and understand that they are subjective boundaries and not based upon anything real. Doesn’t matter what your political or ideological leaning is since both, the existentialists like Nietzsche came to the same conclusions as the post modernists like Satre. This is not a rigth wing-left wing thing.
Good and Evil do not exist, and so it makes no sense to try to be a “good” person. But rather, the Aquarian ideal is about truth, honesty and moral integrity.
The Gods don’t want us to be good and reject evil in this Age, but rather be truthful and have integrity, and reject lies and deceit. And so the Aquarian Magi focus on being as open, transparent and as truthful as possible, and do everything they can to cut down lies, propaganda and subversion. It is one of the reasons why, these days, we do not demand that society, governments and religions be ‘good’, so much as we want them to be transparent and honest. Honesty is a virtue, while ‘goodness’ is seen as pretentious. This is also why modern magicians can invoke Spirits who were formerly called as ‘demon’. These ‘demons’ represent things which, to the Piscean cultures, would have been seen as ‘evil’. To us, no such dichotomy exists. All that we ask for and focus on, is clarity and integrity, and the same is expected from us.
But that was not true in the previous age. It may not make sense to us, but to those who lived in the time it seemed perfectly fine to lie, manipulate and distort information in order to serve the ‘greater Good’. After all, what harm was being done, except deny power to those who were evil?
Problem is, there was also a lot of copy-pasting. A lot of books of magick, yoga and spirituality are filled with material that was simply copied from older books by people who neither practiced nor understood the material. A lot of them merely gave their opinions, and the best logical answer they could come up with, to make sense of all this. A vast majority of occult grimoires fall into this category. They’re simply amalgamations of previous works. The Grimoire of Armadel is perhaps the best example of this. Naturally, all the lies and distortions are retained, since the authors simply had a scholastic interest in these books, and did not practice magick themselves. And so, there’s a further distortion.
A lot of things that are written on the topic of high magick and yoga are just completely…..meaningless. They serve no purpose besides a passing scholarly interest, and it is sad to see so many beginners of magick get so worked up over arbitrary categories, needlessly complex rituals, contradictory philosophies, and various theological and moral restrictions. I think a majority of New Age literature is just that, further opinions given on these various distorted works. A distortion of a distortion of a distortion. Wonderful.
I myself was once really worked up over these things. What is a demon, what is an angel, what is a god? What does it mean to be noble, what is the purpose of culture, and how to be a good person? Growing up, I often had a keen interest in doing the “right thing” and frequently remained obedient to rules, procedures and expectations. Now, I can look back and see it was nothing but servility. I was merely going against my own better judgement for people who did not know better. In fact, many people I listened to were just weak and confused, and were trying to pass it on to the next generation. I realised that power is not always earned, and often people who have been granted authority did not earn it, and do not deserve it. Just because someone says, with confidence, that something is right and correct and moral, does NOT make it so.
Redeeming the Truth
So…what is to be done?
There’s no one size fits all solution. It requires personal discretion, and most importantly, experience.
For example, try to understand the essence and purpose of a ritual and cosmology, without following it blindly. What does the lion skin belt of the Ars Goetia represent? The Animal self, and tying it around your waist represents that you have conquered your inner demons.
Remember that most mythology and scripture is symbolic. For example, the ‘end times’ in the Biblical Revelation represents, not the “end of the world”, but rather Apokalypsis, which is a Greek word meaning the attainment of knowledge, or Gnosis. it also shows the passing from the Age of Pisces to that of Aquarius, which has been happening since around 1980.
A lot of things are exaggerated. Many Tantric mantras do not need to be repeated 40,000 times. Just 40 times will suffice, and you can have the intent of putting the power of a thousand recitations into a single one. These recitations are simply to enter a meditative trance, and imprint the instructions into your subconscious. If you can understand the why, then the what is irrelevant.
Remember that everything the alchemists did refers to real chemical phenomena. If you understand chemistry, you shall understand the instructions.
The Enochian tablets are pages of an instruction manual, not an object of worship or altar piece.
The cosmologies of Gods, Angels and Demons always refer to the elements, the planets, the zodiac, or the 9 gates of understanding.
There’s also few tips I can give. Remember, your OWN gnosis and experiences, and your own thoughts and worldview supersede everything.
But what if you’re wrong?
Trust me, better to think for yourself, and be wrong, than not think at all. The risk of being wrong, and having to reevaluate your beliefs is the price for self determination. Personally, I remember when I first started magick so much of it felt wrong, meaningless, obtuse, misleading or just plain ignorant. But I had to convince myself that it was written by masters who knew more, an that every occult author was of the same caliber, and every book contained valuable information. Never occurred to me that many occult authorities could be..well, just some guys who never had any spiritual experiences with dumb opinions, beginners just like me.
Remember, sometimes, if things feel wrong or don’t make sense, that’s because they are wrong. Not everything happens for a reason, not all categories are true. Sometimes, bad ideas are very popular. Sometimes, the thing that everyone believes could be wrong. Just because something is older, doesn’t mean it’s better, and all people, even masters of High Magick, are human and fallible.
This applies not just to magick, but to a lot of things.
And, most importantly, the Piscean Magi lied.
That doesn’t mean they were bad people or had bad intentions. But they lived in a separate paradigm. Maybe the magi from the Age of Capricorn shall look at us the same way, unable to understand our obsession with honesty and integrity. Perhaps in their time, being truthful and honest would be so common place, that they’ll see our obsession with transparency and openness as weird. Or maybe general reality would have become so magickal and fluid, that ‘truth’ will just feel like a childish and infantile concept, because nothing will appear fixed even to ordinary people.
But we can only go with what makes sense to us in our time, and this applies to those who came before us too.
So without judging them too harshly, remember to take everything they wrote with a healthy amount of skepticism. A lot of it is simply a clever little distraction.
Until Next Time
White Raven Invictus