Tag Archives: Memphis Misraim

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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David Bowie: Closet Occultist!

Q: “So were you involved in actual devil worship?”
A: “Not devil worship, no, it was pure straightforward, old-fashioned magic.”
Q: “The Aleister Crowley variety?”
A: “No, I always thought Crowley was a charlatan. But there was a guy called [Arthur] Edward Waite who was terribly important to me at the time. And another called Dion Fortune who wrote a book called ‘Psychic Self-Defense‘. You had to run around the room getting bits of string and old crayons and draw funny things on the wall, and I took it all most seriously, ha ha ha ! I drew gateways into different dimensions, and I’m quite sure that, for myself, I really walked into other worlds. I drew things on walls and just walked through them, and saw what was on the other side!”

David Bowie, interviewed in NME, 1997

It being 2021, this year will inevitably see many five year anniversaries marked, none more keenly felt than that of the great David Bowie, who together with the passing of Lemmy marked the start of the second worst year of recent memory, to wit – the dreaded 2016. The tragedy was so great that it had the effect of drawing the Occult community, which is normally riven by fractious arguments, together to an unprecedented degree. Ironically, this post which I wrote at the time became the most read article ever on my blog.

So the news this week has been dominated by the passing of David Bowie, and when I consider how much attention was paid to the untimely death of Freddie Mercury – the last pop star of comparable status to leave us – it is almost certain that this event will remain in public consciousness for years to come. Anywho: amongst the magical community, it has been widely noted that Bowie was interested in the occult, as witness his interview with NME quoted at the top of this page, and the back cover over the Station to Station LP, below left:

Photo used for the back cover of Station To Station (1976)

Photo used for the back cover of Station To Station (1976)

Video for Lazarus (2015)

Video for Lazarus (2015)

NB: given the amount of Charlie he was packing away at the time, his precise allegiance might well be pinned to the Holy Order of the Sun! Interestingly, Bowie resurrected the costume covered with, ahem, “white lines,” for his almost-certainly-not final music video “Lazarus” (above right). Might not this video be suggesting that David Bowie did not just keep this costume but this persona hanging up in the closet all this time?

But I digress.

There is an image in the Lazarus video on which a number of bloggers have already commented: where Bowie sits frantically writing at a desk, on which rests a skull. Now the obvious interpretation is that it was a reference to Bowie’s own impending mortality, but when I saw it, it stirred the Sumner Family Brain Cell to life, and got me thinking, where have I seen that before?

See: 3minutes 38seconds.

The answer is: it comes from the first degree (Apprentice) ritual of the Ancient & Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim – a particularly esoteric form of Freemasonry. Assuming the candidate for initiation passes the ballot, just before the ceremony of his initiation,

…[t]he Expert (i.e. Junior Deacon) then takes possession of the Candidate in the Parvis, carefully binds his eyes and leads him to the Chamber of Reflection. He has him sit before a table, sparingly furnished with a real human Skull; a lit wax Candle, half-consumed; a sheet of white paper, pen and ink. The seat is a stool without a back. He lights a little Myrrh, the traditional funereal perfume, in a corner of the room, in a Censer containing lit coals.

Expert: – Sir, alone, left to yourself, before an image of termination of terrestrial Life, I invite you to write your Philosophical Testament.

The “Philosophical Testament” consists of the candidate’s reflections on his duties to God, the World, and himself: but more especially, like its name suggests, how the candidate would answer these questions if his words were the final legacy which he leaves on Earth. However, the code-word “philosophical” indicates that one is meant to interpret it alchemically. In other words, Death is not the end for the candidate – i.e. for David Bowie – but is the first step on the path to spiritual transmutation.

So, there you have it – Bowie indulging in esoteric symbolism right up until the last!


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How to Be an Ascended Master

Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the temple praising God.

Luke 24: 50 – 51.

Looking at the Sophistry the MBW crowd come up with about “Ascension” (nb: MBW = Mind Body Wallet). Apparently this Ascension-lark involves bowing down and worshipping a list of so-called “Ascended Masters.” Yes, such a patriarchal term is still used even though some of them are female: the term “Ascended Mistress” has yet to gain currency I suppose because of the double-entendre.

Anyway: there was me thinking – “What a jolly wheeze it would be if, instead of worshipping an Ascended Master, it was possible to become one instead! Can such a thing be done?” At least according to some schools of Occult thought, the answer is Yes. So, for the benefit of poor benighted humankind, and to the consternation of New Age money-makers everywhere, I present Alex’ Guide to Becoming an Ascended Master.


The Bible itself says very little about Ascension, save for the fact that it is alleged to have happened on three occasions: Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus. Enoch’s ascension is dealt with in one verse of Genesis:

Enoch walked with God. Then he vanished because God took him.

Genesis 5:24.

Jesus’ own experience is recorded in three places: the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles.

The most revealing account though is what happened to the prophet Elijah.

Now as they walked on, talking as they went, a chariot of fire appeared and horses of fire, coming between the two of them; and Elijah went up to heaven in the whirlwind.

2 Kings 2:11 (emphasis added).

Now the word “Chariot” (Hebrew: Merkavah) is the clue to what is really going on here: this word was later adopted by proto-Qabalists to denote a species of Mystical ritual. What we now know as Merkavah Mysticism was formulated in the first centuries of the Common Era, although the Hebrew Mystics who did so were aspiring to rediscover the ancient mysteries primarily which enabled the prophet Ezekiel to obtain his visions. I contend that the association with “works of the Chariot” may be extended to Elijah as well.

Hence: Elijah ended his days on Earth whilst engaged in mystical ritual. It should be noted that in the Yoga Tradition it is claimed that great Yogis do much the same thing, where it is called Mahasamadhi, that is – to consciously leave the body whilst in a state of perfected meditation. However, if this is what happened to Elijah though then clearly his heavenly-translation is actually only a metaphor: although his soul would have left his body in a state of perfect meditation, his body itself would be left behind – his Ascension would be akin to an actual death, though no less remarkable in its own way.


The Gnostics also perceived that Ascension is a matter of undertaking certain mystical rituals, and therefore contrived to speculate what form these rituals might take. One of the finest pieces of Gnostic literature deals directly with this: the Pistis Sophia. In essence this is an account of secret teachings that Jesus gave to the Apostles after the resurrection. The post-resurrection period is stated as lasting some eleven years, not the forty days as is commonly believed in the exoteric Church.

At the end of Jesus’ post resurrection ministry, he Ascended into Heaven … then returned a short-while later to teach the Apostles how He did it.

In order to understand the basic method, one should first be aware of the Gnostic conception of the cosmos. The world of matter is supposedly removed from the Supreme ultimate Divinity: in between are the realms of lesser spiritual beings (“Archons”) who act as barriers or obstacles to Man becoming truly spiritually free, keeping him imprisoned in the physical world. These Archons range from being deliberately evil to morally-neutral, depending on which school of Gnosticism one subscribes to, although one gets the feeling that Gnostic writers tended to gild the lily somewhat when describing how terrible the Archons are in order to emphasise their importance.

According to the Pistis Sophia, Ascension is the method whereby Jesus was able to transcend the world of matter, rise up past and through the barriers administered by the Archons, and commune with the supreme ultimate divinity (referred to in the text as “the First Mystery”) in “Heaven.” NB: in communing with the First Mystery, Jesus becomes One therewith, so that at times he talks of the works of First Mystery in the First Person. The whole implication of the Pistis Sophia being that Gnostic initiates following in Jesus’ footsteps would be able to accomplish the same.

The actual method of the Pistis Sophia is centred on acquiring an ascension-vehicle known as the “Vesture of Light” which, when the initiate is wrapped therein, causes all who see it to perceive only Light itself, not the initiate. The Vesture of Light is imagined as a cloak on which are written the Words of Power which are the key to compelling the Archons to let the initiate pass upwards: ZAMA ZAMA OZZA RACHAMA OZAI.

How is the “Vesture of Light” acquired? The Pistis Sophia is open to interpretation on this point. Jesus acquired His “Vesture of Light” from the First Mystery Itself, although this is a rather circular conception when one considers that in Ascending, Jesus identifies as the First Mystery. In the opinion of G R S Mead, the Pistis Sophia was not meant to be a publicly circulated document, but reserved for initiates. If so, we can infer that there may have been further oral teaching given to Gnostic initiates which was never written down. As to what this oral teaching might be, several modern commentators have reached their own conclusions, as will be noted below.


Mead, a keen scholar of Gnosticism and related subjects, was also the first English writer to translate a key ritual of Mithraism which again deals with Ascension – which he describes as the “innermost rite of the carefully guarded secrets of the Mithriaca.”

NB: it is called a Mithraic Liturgy, but this may be misleading. There is no internal evidence in the text to suggest it has to do with Mithras at all! All that is known for certain is that the papyrus in which it is contained dates from the fourth century AD, was written in Greek and derives from Egypt (the timing makes it contemporaneous with the decline of the cult of Mithras).

The ritual itself consists of a certain number of invocations and utterations to be made whilst astrally-projecting into the Higher Realms. The basic idea of memorising a long and complex ritual to be performed in the astral is not too dissimilar to the practice of Merkavah, although the rituals differ in the details. Of modern magicians Julius Evola published a version of this ritual, implying that it may have been practised by his “Ur Group.”


Being the world’s greatest Ipsissimus, it has come to my attention that there is a group doing the rounds claiming to have made contact with the secret chiefs of the so-called third-order. On investigating, it quickly became obvious (i.e. obvious to someone who has the total consciousness of the universe, in other words, not obvious at all) to what they are referring.

The said Group appear to be practising a form of Gnostic ascension à la Pistis Sophia (see above). However they have come up with a radical method of attaining the “Vesture of Light,” by a means of a certain method of what may quaintly be termed “internal alchemy” – or less quaintly – Sex Magick.

I have reason to believe that the group of so-called “secret chiefs” is in fact a genuine organisation (i.e. in the sense that it exists), however: certain public details about it have been deliberately obscured. It is not, for instance, as one rumour goes around the interwebby-thing, the third-order of the Golden Dawn at all, but a highly elite and exclusive group that draw their members from high-degree Memphis-Misraim initiates.

The time, date and place of their meetings, as well as who attends them, are obviously strictly confidential, though the “secrets” are not particularly so: there is nothing there that cannot be gained from cribbing from the works of Kenneth Grant, for example.

I shall say no more on this matter, as I do not wish criticisms against me to “snowball.” 😉


So as you can appreciate, for the practising Occultist, “Ascension” is a goal which may be attained (allegedly) through advanced mystical and theurgic practices. Needless to say, the Qabalistic, Gnostic and (pseudo)-Mithraic methods stop short of the full deal, as in each case the initiate returns to Earth afterwards – at least in the examples that we know about. It is thus a form of shamanic journeying, albeit to the higher as opposed to lower worlds.

It is important to bear in mind at this stage a distinction between the Right and Left Hand Paths when it comes to the matter of Ascension. The aspiration of the Right-hand path practitioner is to undergo an Ascension experience in order to attain the Beatific Vision whilst living, not necessarily to permanently translate to the higher realms. After all, there is a far simpler way to do that, and that is by simply dying.

The practitioner of the Left-Hand Path is in a different position. Whereas one on the RHP automatically assumes that his or her soul is immortal and will survive death anyway, the LHP practitioner has no such guarantee. Thus, the LHP practitioner can be recognised by an obsession with Ascension not to gain the mystical benefits to derive therefrom, but as a means to cheat Death itself.


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