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How to survive Mercury Retrograde

“Mercury Retrograde holds no terrors… when all the unlucky stuff happens to other people.”

Mercury went Retrograde on December 29th 2022, and will station Direct again on January 18th 2023, in approximately three weeks time.

I find it supremely ironic that a no-mark of whom I had never heard before two days ago, chose the first day of Mercury going Retrograde to attack Greta Thunberg on social media. His reward consisted of not only being pilloried by the internet in general, and Ms Thunberg in particular, but his actions led to the Romanian Police detecting his presence in their country and arresting him. If you had doubts about the devastating power of Astrology, doubt no longer!

However, unless you really are a vile specimen of a human being, Mercury Retrograde need not necessarily be all bad: and indeed Hermeticism teaches us that by ascending to the right state of enlightened consciousness, we can survive the curveballs that this time of year throws at us. Furthermore, we ought to know that Mercury turns Retrograde around three times a year: thus because it happens with predictable reliability, we each can and ought to develop our own strategy or strategies for dealing with it.

As I wrote in my account of my own Abramelin Operation, 16th October 2020:

I had not paid much attention to the current stars and planets in the past few days, but I happened to remember that Mercury had just turned Retrograde (it had done so three days ago). It would not station direct until after I had finished the Operation. For one moment I felt uneasy that this had to happen now : would I have begun my Operation if I had realised ? But then I dismissed the thought. Given that it occurs three or four times a year, one inevitably cannot perform the Abramelin Operation without it turning Retrograde once during that time. Perhaps I had done well not to pay too much attention to the astrology of the situation, as otherwise I might have let superstitious dread cause me to miss this opportunity.

A lot of people fear this time of year, but as I discovered once after a supermarket cashier forgot to ring up a bottle of whisky in my shopping, Mercury Retrograde holds no terrors so long as all the unlucky stuff happens to other people. A sort of Schadenfreude view of the phenomenon. Besides which, I interpreted the message of Hermeticism to mean that ultimately one ought to develop oneself spiritually so that one can learn to stand apart from the influence of the planets, instead of remaining passively affected by them. This, I supposed, formed the whole rationale of the planetary magick of the Golden Dawn. Adverse astrological conditions might disquieten the great unwashed, but they should merely present a challenge to an Adept worth his or her salt.

Sumner (2022), p477 – see below for full bibliographic citation.

However: although practicing the Hexagram Rituals of the Golden Dawn, and by otherwise rising on the planes and raising one’s vibrational state does work, it only goes so far! The Curse of the Adept is that one has to continually deal with people who aren’t familiar with high Hermetic magic. E.g. as I recorded a few days later:

Later that morning : work continued awfully and threatened to spoil my day. Despite me being fastidiously careful, people tried to blame me for things which went wrong anyway. In other words, I had managed to transcend the effects of the Mercury Retrograde today, but my managers and co-workers had not, so I had to deal with their bullshit, nonetheless. In effect, I suffered from Mercury Retrograde by Proxy.

Ibid., p487.

In conclusion, my top tips for surviving Mercury Retrograde: DO

  • Spend time in meditation, and introspection. When a Planet is Retrograde, its energies are directed inwards. Hence although it is a bad time for outward expressions, it is a very good time for applying the power of Mercury to the inner life – through contemplation and cultivating one’s intuition.
  • Make plans for what you are going to achieve when Mercury stations Direct. The Retrograde period is a bad time for starting new ventures, however: it only lasts three weeks. Hence, this fact coupled with the idea of spending time on one’s inner life mentioned above means that it is an excellent time not for starting ventures, but for planning what you are going to start in the near future.
  • Try to remain calm: be compassionate and forgiving. Remind yourself that people who tick you off during this time are probably suffering themselves, and try to be as merciful towards them as you would want them to be towards you if you were in the same situation.


  • Start new ventures recklessly. Instead, if you can’t avoid putting it off, make an extra effort to make sure you have been especially careful. It would be foolish to say “never start something during a Mercury Retrograde” because that’s never entirely possible, so instead you should take this time to act cautiously.
  • Celebrate your return to social media by attacking the most popular climate change activist on the planet, disclosing public details when you are wanted by the police, or both.

Sumner, A (2022), Conjuring Demons for Pleasure and Profit: an Abramelin Memoir, Thoth Publications, Leicester, UK.

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‘Cultural appropriation’: discussion builds over western yoga industry | Yoga | The Guardian

An op-ed piece in The Guardian states that what passes for Yoga in the west nowadays has become “divorced … from its 5000 year old roots.” Author of new book The Yoga Manifesto: How Yoga Helped Me and Why it Needs to Save Itself, Nadia Gilani, states:

“The lack of people of colour in the industry is a massive problem,” Gilani said. “There is a big issue with diversity, in terms of both teachers and those who practice it. What especially annoys me is when Sanskrit words like ‘namaste’ get emblazoned on T-shirts, images of Hindu gods are turned into tattoos, or ‘om’ symbols are printed on yoga mats. It’s cultural appropriation and it’s offensive.”

I dislike using the vocabulary of political correctness, but I find myself agreeing with Ms Gilani’s sentiment entirely. The issues are, however, complex.

A quarter of a century ago, I attended the British Wheel of Yoga’s annual conference, and if I were to profile its attendees I would characterise them as predominantly white. I can only remember one teacher of Indian ethnicity and he had lived and worked in Britain for most of his life. I also noted that in a bid to host it somewhere that was peaceful and quiet, they had held it in the middle of the countryside, where it was a devil to get to via public transport (hence discriminating in favour of car owners, and against pedestrians).

Moreover, many of the teachers at the time appeared to have been ex-hippies who had hit the trail in the late sixties or early seventies, and found themselves – both geographically and spiritually – in India, where they trained under admittedly authentic native teachers such as BKS Iyengar, Satyananda Saraswati, and others. Iyengar, incidentally, himself a devout Vaishnavite Hindu, always struck me as a man at pains to emphasise how his modern system of Hatha Yoga fitted in with the classical tradition as exemplified by Patanjali, and his Indian heritage – despite the fact that he was perfectly willing to teach Westerners.

However, the most disturbing trend in Yoga at the time came not from the British Wheel, but from America, where feminists openly discussed in the pages of yoga magazines (this of course was in the days before the Internet) how they refused to acknowledge the importance of the Bhagavad Gita, because they believed its description of a battle was Patriarchal. In other words, no true woman would use such violent imagery, hence they did not accept it.

I believe that this is the real root of the modern decline in respect for meditation and spirituality in Yoga in the West. It may be politically incorrect to culturally appropriate the ancient heritage, but this has come about because there was a perception that the ancient heritage was itself politically incorrect!

Plus of course, stripping Yoga of its spiritual associations helps to commodify it. The fifth of the Yamas, according to Patanjali, is Aparigraha or lack of attachment to material goods, so it would be inevitable for Patanjali to be excluded from Yoga in order to make it more materialistic.

‘Cultural appropriation’: discussion builds over western yoga industry

‘Cultural appropriation’: discussion builds over western yoga industry | Yoga | The Guardian

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False Awakening

Being “Woke” in popular parlance may be defined as realising that one is being lied to by the forces of Evil (for want of a better word), and then deliberately refusing to accept their narrative anymore. Hence the “Woke” person is in a position to criticise those who persist in old-fashioned belief systems as being contrary to their own enlightened-perspective.

Except that it doesn’t work like that.

Recently, I looked at my news-feed and realised I was being lied to. The items which came up were meant to sedate me into not realising that I wasn’t seeing any stories which might actually inform, enlighten or challenge me. Filled with righteous anger, I went in search of whoever it was who had subjected me to mental slavery, and soon realised it was someone called “Alex Sumner.”

Yes! Far from the Google/Facebook/etc Algorithm being to solely to blame, I realised that by specifying my favourite news sources, my favourite topics, what I liked browsing, etc, I had turned the internet into a mirror – reflecting what I expected to see. And then I realised:

Because the Algorithm comes up with a result tailored to the individual, Everyone Is Seeing A Different Internet To Everyone Else.

Hence, the right wing people constantly receive a feed of right wing stories because they set their preferences to sites like Breitbart, and The Daily Mail. However, the Woke people constantly receive a feed from their own preferred i.e. “woke” outlets.

Everyone is being told what they want to hear – woke and unwoke.

There can be no dialogue on the internet between people of divergent points-of-view, because none of them are engaging with the same internet. Moreover, people argue assuming they are talking about the same thing whilst in reality each is speaking a different language to the other.

Becoming Woke is therefore not exchanging illusion for Truth, but one illusion for a different illusion.

It gets worse. In Philosophy, a debate between rival Philosophers could take centuries – literally, because the proponents lived in different time-zones. Likewise, in the Sciences, a scientific theory could hold sway for many years, e.g. it took over two hundred years to demonstrate Newton’s laws of motion are not true in every circumstance.

However: the Algorithm(s) are heavily biased in favour of novelty, to such an extent that to have an in-depth discussion on anything, even if it is not a great philosophical or scientific debate, requires an attention-span longer than that allowed for by the Algorithm. The internet may be a mirror, but we are only “seeing through a glass darkly” because it is not conducive to self-examination. It reflects, but does not allow self-reflection.

Personally I’ve started by deliberately altering my news preferences to read sources I would never read otherwise, although I think this might be the beginning of a plot for a dystopian science fiction series.

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Alex weighs in on the Liz Truss Debacle

Prime Minister Liz Truss Official Portrait
Former Prime Minister Liz Truss. in No10 Downing

The United Kingdom is currently going through a great national crisis, and that can mean only one thing: it’s time for Alex Sumner to exercise his Astrology chops once again! Specifically: what do the stars have to say about Liz Truss’ meteoric rise and fall as Prime Minister?

Mary Elizabeth Truss was born on 26th July 1975 in Oxford, England. I could not find birth-time data: however, a 47-year-old woman will not normally be going through transits to her natal planets, so I am willing to bet that her career flushed down the pan the way it did yesterday because Saturn was transitting her MC. On this basis, I have created a Rectified Chart for her with an estimated birth-time of 2.16am, hence:

On first glancing at this chart, I would say that this is not the chart of a woman born to be Prime Minister! Firstly, Saturn and Mercury conjunct in Cancer in the second house suggest that her professional talents would best be applied not making public pronouncements, but instead communicating in a safe, sensible and measured manner: in any event, avoiding saying anything rash or ill-considered.

This is unfortunate, as – assuming my rectification is accurate – with Gemini as her rising sign, she feels naturally inclined to present herself as a great communicator: so having Saturn conjunct the Lord of her Ascendant must be a bit of a downer.

Secondly, the same Saturn/Mercury conjunction is in a “T-formation” with regard to Jupiter in Aries (11th house), and comedy planet Uranus in Libra (5th house). Jupiter indicates her desire to win friends and admirers through some sort of leadership role, whilst Uranus points out a propensity to behaving unconventionally when performing in public. However, the need to speak and act cautiously is a drag on her leadership ambitions, as well as a challenge to her going on the public stage, as it were.

Ironically, Square aspects can inspire an individual to achieve greatness if they are able to solve the conflicts provoked thereby. More specifically, a “T-formation” like this indicates that an individual is likely to experience both Great Success and Great Failure in her life, often coming quickly one after the other – as a transitting planet, when forming an aspect with one natal planet, will inevitably form aspects to a whole load of other planets at the same time.

In conclusion, if I were to analyse Liz Truss’ personality based on this chart, I would summarise it as follows:

You are a warrior and a ringleader, but your emotions are rather extreme. Art is what makes you emotionally happy. You think in a deep way and express your needs and thoughts in an emotional way. You express your energy in an abiding way: you are destructive when you get angry. In love you are helpful, and you seek respect.

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Alex Sumner: Prime Minister

Boris Johnson

News today that the UK has gained a vacancy for a new head of Government. Given that this my nation’s hour of need, I, Alex Sumner, have decided to volunteer to take up the role. And not least because my fiancée and I have been looking for a new pad and could do with somewhere in London close to the West End!

During my premiership, I would concentrate on three areas of public policy:

Reform the Ministerial Code

Clearly, breaching the Ministerial Code as it now stands has been as dangerous as being licked by an overly affectionate Labrador. I briefly considered whether all Government Ministers should be obliged to wear a device which gives them a mild electric shock whenever they commit an infringement, just to remind them.

Instead, I have decided to institute a Three Strikes and You’re Out Rule, i.e. in future a Prime Minister is automatically sacked if three Ministers resign in disgust from his cabinet.

Reform Standards in Public Life.

I would make it a criminal offence for someone to make a pledge as part of a campaign to be elected to office, and then go do the exact opposite once they have been elected. Obviously this would at one fell swoop get rid of politicians who go back on their manifesto promises, although I would extend this to all levels of Society.

End to Sexual Discrimination.

I would abolish all single-sex private members clubs, except those who allow their members to associate with mixed sex clubs, freely and without prejudice, discrimination, bullying or harassment of any kind. Furthermore, I would make it a criminal offence for the Grand Secretary of any such club to go on TV and lie about the amount of harassment taking place within such an organisation.

Anyone who has been illegally expelled or forced to resign from such an organisation would be granted instant re-instatement, promotion to grand rank, and £1 million in compensation.

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What the Stars Have in Store for… the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Vladimir Putin
Putin vs Zelenskiy – there’s only one way to settle this. FIIIGHT!

MI6 – CIA – stand aside! Read the only military Intel you will ever need right here, provided by your humble blogmaster. Today, I turn my astrological eye on the activities happening in the Ukraine, by analysing a chart drawn up for the moment Russian troops crossed the border into Ukrainian territory earlier this week.

Chart drawn up for Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, 21st February 2022 at 0500 (local time) – when Putin announced Russian incursion.

We can use the position of Luna to analyse how this situation arose in the first place. Luna is exactly 150º past Caput Draconis, in a Cardinal sign and succedent house. Hence, the root-reason for this invasion is an event which took place 150 weeks ago, i.e., in April 2019. This is the exact time that the current Ukrainian President, Volodomyr Zelenskiy, was elected. In fact it is 150 weeks to the day (21st April 2019).

The sunrise in Donetsk on Monday this week was at 0733, whilst the preceding sunset was 1758. Hence, we can calculate that the announcement of Russian troops entering Ukraine territory occurred during the planetary hour of Sol. Coincidentally, the waning moon is trine to Sol. In other words, if I were asked to use my powers of Electional Astrology to pick a time to do a Solar Banishing, I would have picked that very moment. (NB: Putin certainly did not ask me to predict the best time to invade Ukraine, though whether he had his own astrological help is another matter).

Given that in mundane Astrology, Sol represents the Government, combined with the analysis of Luna, I would go so far as to say that Putin’s real objective is to depose the Ukrainian Government – and President Zelenskiy in particular – and install a pro-Putin replacement, effectively making the Ukraine a Russian client-state. We can thus guess exactly how Russia sees its “diplomacy” going (i.e. you get rid of your President, and we’ll withdraw our troops).

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Why do people use the Latin language in occult and in “spells”?

Olim, libri qui magicum contenuit in Latina scriptebantur, illa enim lingua scholasticorum trans Europam erat. Sic, multa ritualia antiqua in Latina ut historicum artificium sunt.

Non omnia carmina in Latina sunt: aliqua, praesertim cabalistica, Hebraeo veniunt; alia vero Enochiano. Est nulla ratio ritualibus magicis novis in Latina scribere: lingua uti potes quod tibi placet.

Alex’ answer to Why do people use the Latin language in occult and in “spells”?

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“Laddering Back.”

This is an edited version of a post which first appeared on this website on 29th October 2020, where I attributed a quote about “laddering back” to Carl Jung. However, on researching the origin of the said quote, I realise that it was not Jung’s idea at all, but that of Edward Maitland, the Theosophical writer.


Edward Maitland (1824-1897)

Maitland must probably be the unluckiest man in Occultism, as history appears to remember him as playing Boswell to Anna Kingsford’s Johnson. This despite the fact that he himself had no mean talent as a mystic and psychic quite independently of the latter, such that they ought to be considered as an equal partnership.

In any case: Jung seized upon a passage from Maitland’s biography of Kingsford, in which Maitland described an incident in which he himself attained a state of Intuition or noumenal consciousness. I found this quote, especially the sentiment which I have emboldened, of great help to my Abramelin operation last year and which remains relevant now.

Jung was primarily interested in this quote as he saw it as the key to Active Imagination, and by extension to psychotherapy. However I  believe that in Maitland’s ideas of retaining his outer/circumferential consciousness at the same time as accessing the inner/central consciousness, he (Maitland) had actually hit on the method for becoming aware of the astral plane whilst retaining awareness of the physical counterpart at the same time. The concept of “laddering back” may also be likened to “rising on the planes.”

The reflecting on an idea, related ideas became visible, so to speak, in a long series apparently reaching back to their source, which to him was the divine spirit. By concentrating on this series, he tried to penetrate to their origin. He [i.e. Maitland] writes:

I was absolutely without knowledge or expectation when I yielded to the impulse to make the attempt. I simply experimented on a faculty. . . being seated at my writing-table the while in order to record the results as they came, and resolved to retain my hold on my outer and circumferential consciousness, no matter how far towards my inner and central consciousness I might go. For I knew not whether I should be able to regain the former if I once quitted my hold of it, or to recollect the facts of the experience. At length I achieved my object, though only by a strong effort, the tension occasioned by the endeavour to keep both extremes of the consciousness in view at once being very great.

Once well started on my quest, I found myself traversing a succession of spheres or belts . . . the impression produced being that of mounting a vast ladder stretching from the circumference towards the centre of a system, which was at once my own system, the solar system, the universal system, the three systems being at once diverse and identical.. . . . Presently, by a supreme, and what I felt must be a final effort . . . I succeeded in polarizing the whole of the convergent rays of my consciousness into the desired focus. And at the same instant, as if through the sudden ignition of the rays thus fused into a unity, I found myself confronted with a glory of unspeakable whiteness and brightness ,and of a lustre so intense as well-nigh to beat me back. . . . But though feeling that I had to explore further, I resolved to make assurance doubly sure by piercing if I could the almost blinding lustre, and seeing what it enshrined. With a great effort I succeeded, and the glance revealed to me that which I had felt must be there. . . . It was the dual form of the Son . . . the unmanifest made manifest, the unformulate formulate, the unindividuate individuate, God as the Lord, proving through His duality that God is Substance as well as Force, Love as well as Will, Feminine as well as Masculine, Mother as well as Father.

From: The Collected Works of C G Jung, volume 13: Alchemical Studies, quoting Anna Kingsford, her life, letters, diary and work.

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October 5, 2021 · 3:05 pm

Review: “The Divinatory Arts” by Papus

Papus (Gérard Anaclet Vincent Encausse, 1865 – 1916), was a leading figure of the French Occult scene at the turn of the 20th century. He authored “Tarot of the Bohemians,” and founded or co-founded the Martinist Order and the Order Kabbalistique de la Rose-Croix. He was also a leading figure in Memphis Misraim and the Gnostic Catholic Church. He was even a member of the OTO, before Crowley got his mits on it.

He was also very briefly a member of the Golden Dawn, i.e. he only ever attended one meeting, and didn’t stay for the whole thing at that.

Despite being the very essence of “Occult,” Papus at one stage went mainstream by penning a series of articles published in Le Figaro, which is now France’s biggest newspaper, although back in 1895 when the articles were written, it had a more populist stance. Still, that would be like if you were to imagine me, Alex Sumner, being employed at a generous salary by The Daily Telegraph to write for it.

Hence, Papus ended up writing about Graphology, Palmistry, Physiognomy, as well as astrology. The content of these articles was necessarily only a brief introduction to the subject matter – understandable as they were intended for publication in a newspaper. This book, is the first time that these articles have been translated into English.

Although this is an interesting reference for someone researching Papus’ life, Papus’ own writing here is far from being the most interesting thing that Papus had ever done, given that he had lived such rich and full life. In that sense, the Translator’s own introduction is actually more interesting from an esoteric point of view. Nevertheless, I did find some merit in reading about palmistry and graphology, which were subjects I had never really touched upon.

I had to laugh at one point at Papus’ blatant chauvinism – he assumes, for example that the only reason a man would study Physiognomy is so that he can dominate any woman irrespective of her temperament. Nevertheless, the book as a whole is a curious piece in the larger jig-saw puzzle of the life of an otherwise great occultist.

The Divinatory Arts by Papus; translated into by “The Three Luminaries” © 2020, ISBN-13: 9798684181795. Available from Amazon.


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‘Revival of the occult’: French youth turn to tarot, astrology during Covid-19

Young people in France are increasingly turning to tarot, astrology and other forms of esoterism, a trend that accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent poll.

Source: ‘Revival of the occult’: French youth turn to tarot, astrology during Covid-19

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