Seven Spheres in Review

I ordered my copy of RO’s Seven Spheres the second day after it was released.  I think it’s telling that people who ordered the day before I did got their copies ten days before I did.  My copy is numbered 120/1000.  I was already half-familiar with a lot of the material from the Seven Spheres in Seven Days project and the magical experiments that came before and after, but I took my time going through the book.  I took my sweet time performing the rituals, too, and even longer processing the effects before even beginning to write this review.  In the intervening time, more people than I care to count have already reviewed the book in great depth, so I will keep my own comments brief and largely personal.

The book opened with a preface, “On the Gender of Kings,” that makes good-faith effort to reconcile the highly gendered language of the rites with the much wider reality of the occult community.  It falls little short in that it doesn’t question the legitimacy of male-as-default, but as an opening gambit by a straight white male hermeticist, it’s a sea-change.  So thank you for that, Fr. Rufus Opus, it means a lot.

The following chapters go one to provide a rough outline of the neo-Platonic theology upon which the book hinges.  After, he goes very specifically into the theology and philosophy of the kingship metaphor.  These sections are both interesting and helpful, but, based on Aradia’s struggle to understand some the material, I don’t believe that they are fully comprehensible without a decent background in either Classical Studies or the wider world of Hermetics.

While the Seven Spheres does not actually contain a complete philosophy (a good thing, in my opinion), it does contain a complete ritual structure.  With only a little outside knowledge and no outside ritual, one could actually use the Seven Spheres as the basis for an entire ritual practice.  Rufus Opus has combined the Stele of Jeu the Heiroglyphist with the Trithemius’ spirit conjuration and the Thomas Taylor translation of the Orphic Hymns into an elaborate but effective and accessible rite.  Each of the seven conjurations is largely the same, substituting the names of the appropriate archangels and planets at the appropriate times and reading the (loosely) appropriate Orphic hymn.

I have only three complaints about the book, one of which is editorial and two of which are academic.

The first academic issue is one of a citation.  In the chapter about the Sun (p.50), Rufus Opus makes reference to Supernatural Assistant in the Greek Magical Papyri.  Unless he is refering to the Stele of Jeu, itself, which never uses that language, the only such rites I know of (or can find, quickly consulting the table of rituals) are PGM I.1-42 “Rite”  and PGM I.4 “The spell of Pnothis”.  The first opens with the “deification” (drowning) of a falcon, which is to then be stuffed and made offerings; the second requires the head of a (the same?) falcon.  I sent the good gentleman an email for clarification at the time, but never received a response.  This saddens me immensely because I want to read those rituals, damn it.

The second academic issue is one of translation.  Thomas Taylor’s Hymns may be good for magic, and beautifully ensconced in the public domain, but the are awful English representations of the Greek.  Athanassakis is the only legitimate English translation currently available.

Finally, there appears to be a transcription error in the ritual script.  On page 114, one is instructed to say, “…prepare now the way between myself and the sphere of Mercury…” regardless of the sphere one is conjuring.  Because there is no explanation elsewhere in the book as to why one always trucks with angels via the sphere of Mercury, one suspects that this is supposed to read “… sphere of [Planet Name]…” even as the space for the Angel’s name is noted at the bottom of the page and again on 120.

Aradia and I began our journey through the spheres on Thursday the 1st of January.  It took us about nine weeks to make it through six of the seven spheres — we never felt called to conjure Saturn.  Each time we conjured the archangels of the spheres, we asked for their blessing that we might be beloved of gods and mortals, and that they appear before us that we might know them.  In each of those rites, I drew the Powers that I saw.

The positive effects of those rites are still reverberating through my life.  I’ve finished my first novel and gotten it out to several friends for editing.  I’ve opened a portfolio site to sell my photography.  I’ve decided to go back to school for my Master’s degree.  I’ve begun an ambitious artistic and magical mask-making project for the main ritual arc at this coming Heartland Pagan Festival.  I’ve found a new lover.

I cannot possibly recommend this book strongly enough.

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