A seasonal, avant-garde periodical
Morgan P. Stevens
The chimeric man is a totem. When animated by the examiner’s attention, it will once again sing of man before he was made flesh, caught in the primordial violence of Creation. In essence, the chimeric man is the supreme symbol, and keeper, of the cosmogonic myth.
Myth is neither history nor fable. It is a mode of memory.
Thus is Schwaller de Lubicz able to apprehend that all initiatory rites are specifically designed to "provoke shocks, emotional reactions, or to grate against the cerebral need for sequential logic." Through a series of sensual disturbances, one invariably attains a state of altered consciousness and vision; in short, ecstasy. These profound realizations are intended to disjoint one from the sclerotic environment that man may find himself in, and allow him to participate in life once again with a transcendent purpose. It orients and affirms him. So goes the eternal quest for the ‘center’ of the world.
The rigorous theurgical process, in a sense, transports the initiate to the side of his god--the first god, being the first man, and ‘the great ancestor,’--executing the sacrifice which birthed, then ordered the world. In merging, he rescues himself from the ugly reality of mortification and supersedes it through a cyclical revitalization. Mircea Eliade termed this phenomenon an expression of man's timeless fascination with “the perfection of the beginning of things.”
Certain symbols fade from prominence when the people who interact with them are either no longer capable of reading them, or no longer willing to. When the symbol has lost its initial meaning, its form is shed and then becomes something less than the original.
Cosmogony and the chimeric matrix are fundamentally energetic. Ancient man long recognized the simple fact that something must be given in exchange for anything, otherwise it is a theft, taboo, or illusion. For example, in the Eastern doctrines, this is explicated through systems such as karma, and the yogic sciences. Though the West has long been divorced from anything so serious as spirituality, we have nonetheless managed to preserve these essentials through consequence, and Newtonian mechanics. Considerably, these recognitions vindicate aged notions of continual effort needed through the ritual of sacrifice.
Life is activity.
The expression is incomplete without fully apprehending the cosmogonic myth with regard to the anthropocosmos. Structurally, the myth encapsulates a few vital components, namely the first 'man' and the first 'sacrifice' whose body is to comprise the new world. In recollecting the mythical genesis, one also reveals the ordering--the Hermetic ‘signature, sigil’ and Neoplatonic energeia, and telos--of creation. What follows are the alloforms deduced by Bruce Banner in the Proto-Indo-European cosmology:
It would be vulgar to suggest that this supplies a reasoning. To the traditional strata, symbolism is the only valid confirmation as to why things appear and operate in their specific manners. Hence that man may recognize parts of himself in a dog, or see his face in the knots and gnarls of a tree. The mind of man is necessarily given to analogy as it passes through the governors of proportion, scale, and meter.
The art of actuating, participating and ultimately unionizing with the divine through ritual was verbalized in classical Greece through the Chaldean Oracles. The Oracles referred to the execution of ecstatic mysteries as theurgy. Predicated by sympathetic magic, the theurgists held that through proper adherence, ritual observation, and sacrifice, the practitioner would be capable of awakening the philia between the divine in question, and the supplicant. If criteria were appropriately meted out, then the two would be successfully merged with one another for a time, sharing both in the activity and state of being. Aleister Crowley once remarked that theurgy is the pinnacle of what is oracular and revelatory. In his mind, the theurgical line which constitutes Magick is conveyed ultimately through arts of the trance: Yoga and the Dionysian ecstasies.
The sort of unity sought through theurgy is an abstract conveyance of a return to the timeless beginning, illo tempore, wherein possibility was synonymous with chaos, and the essence of existence was actively molded, then delineated.
Polemicized later as a base art of sorcery and wonder-working, just as the alchemists were conflated with charcoal-puffers who sought to transmute gold, the theurgists gradually faded from the religious forum and its elements were syncretized by the Christian ecstatic. That the Saint’s Theresa and Philomena, for example, bear the epithet thaumaturge, yet describe their stages of actualization as structurally theurgical is evidence enough. Yet, this is an inevitable occurrence as theurgy is essential to the human condition--it will be a function as long as man maintains himself. In ancient locales the art would simply be referred to as shamanistic.
For the modern, there is an oppressive tendency to pathologize states beyond shades of wakefulness. Clinical professions attenuated to the mind, psychiatry and psychology, count themselves among the worst offenders. There are also the academics who struggle incessantly to analyze the constituent parts of shaman in their pursuit for evermore data. According to one’s exposure and education, shaman has effectively become equivalent to labels such as mad-man, hysteric, dramatist, or archaic monger of herbs. While kernels of truth remain, rather than define the shaman or shamanism symptomatically, we will instead focus on their cause. After this fashion, then, are the characteristics most associated with him--the ability to commune with the unseen, divination, prophesy, curative mastery, and the possession or bestowal of flight-- are regarded as the product of his internal revelations attained through the art of ritual. Eliade notes that,
“The primitive magician, the medicine man or shaman is not only a sick man, he is above all, a sick man who has been cured, who has succeeded in curing himself.”
Through dance, song, sacrifice, and creation, the shaman or mystery initiate is able to understand the greater parts of himself through the act of ritual interaction. In ceremonies which involve the consecration and animation of an instrument through its construction and playing thereof, the Altaic shaman is said to coax forward the past stories and lives of the components. The animal parts relay their birth, troubles, and misgivings just as the vegetative parts do theirs. The collective tale comprises music, which is mastered, and directed by the shaman. The supplicant’s dancing is, to apply the mystery cult scheme, imitative of the motions and movements of the ritual object--be they cycles of celestial or physical bodies. This act of mutual manipulation--possession--allows the shaman to reanimate the portions of himself found in the objects at his disposal, just as he in turn animates them. Entranced, he is reminded of their ancestors, and his own; in sum he ascends toward the ‘great ancestor’ once more, and is born anew.
There is an outward element of necromancy associated with the shamanic, and theurgic arts, by virtue of the cosmogonic myth, imitating as it did, the procession of souls via ancestor veneration.
In the Celtic and Germanic traditions, the prophet or shaman becomes so after a series of rituals involving sleeping among the dead, consuming specific animal’s blood, and wrapping themselves in various pelts. The same rings true of powers transmitted through the patronage of ancestral graves and that of particularly powerful hero-figures, or their reliquaries. The mythological odyssey-types found throughout the ancient world, sometimes assuming the form of the heroic descent to the underworld, or inversely, ascent to the heavens, signify the same heritable process.
As we have noted elsewhere, sacrifice demands that a portion of oneself be invested into their creation. This consequently results in its animation, or rather realization, with sexual generation being the most observable. However, the artisan too must afford a part of himself in his creations, ergo the poetically maimed gods and beings of the forge. The sympathetic rationale lends itself as well toward the theurgical consumption of, and adornment in, animal parts by shamans.
Directing his vision and energy toward material, the artisan brings it into existence, he animates it. The object now contains the imprint of its creator and simultaneously reminds him of the original wellspring that he harbors. The theurgist subsumes the qualities of the objects he works with to the same goal. To adorn oneself in the pelt of the animal, such as a wolf, is to become them as they confer their qualities to the user through the process. The performance similarly hearkens the ritualist to the beginning when he was cognizant of, and wholly contained, that wolfish energia for example.
Mask cults preserved the ancient theurgical notion. Among Indo-European cultures, masking was a critical aspect of initiation rites, especially in lieu of the speculated koryos who ‘masked’ themselves through animal pelts. After their time in the wilds, and upon their reintegration into society, the tradition was again carried out with each successive generation, as the coming group was over-seen by the previous cohort who now comprised the upper-echelon of their tribe. To understand the mysteries so intimately is to continue its memory, and their reenactment is a demonstrable, literal rejuvenation. Effectively, initiates occupy a place beyond the mundane for they are now living embodiments of the ancestors, or otherwise divine emanations. Though not all may wear masks in a manner that is totally evident, the inclusion of sigils, tattoos, associative items, and helmets which feature horns or winged motifs for example, convey the possibility of a more mature, and subtle system which existed well into the Classical.
It would be overly simplistic to suggest that the chimeric man is definitively the same as the theurgical rite executed by an ancient person. Rather, these beings are the memory thereof. By reinvesting one’s energy through recalling the form of something such as the centaur, it invites the onlooker to first rediscover, then experience the theurgical process for themselves.
The Chimeric Man
Mythical man-beasts of the ancient world incorporate choice animals because of their revealed behavior.
Animals which frequently consumed the dead--spirit it away--emblematize the psychopomp. Here, dogs and birds of carrion like the great vultures of Çatalhöyük, and the hawk or eagle, claim eminence. Those which accompany, or rise up from the dead, dwell near charnel, cause death, or are offered in sacrifice, frequently analogize the soul that is bound. Here we are reminded of the folkloric conceptions of the soul as a butterfly, and especially the snake. The latter intriguingly occupies both distinctions, however. In a Bronze Age environment, goats, cattle, bison, and horses reckon among either the most common, or illustrious of sacrifices. Such a bifurcation is capable of spanning the exhaustive catalog of chimeric men.
Many of the chimeric myths revolve around fascination, or the accrual of power through generation. Ixion’s unsuccessful lust after Hera resulted in the centaurs and their close compatriots--or possible predecessor--the satyrs; Pasiphae’s enchantment with the Cretan bull produced the Minotaur; through exercising the ability of ascension, Garuda was said to have lusted after and stolen the supreme power of the gods just as Anzû did among the summits of Mesopotamia; the anguipeds of the ancient world symbolize the direct descendants of the dragon in the Chaoskampf, the first total being. Tiamat’s desires devolved into ravenous greed as did Vritra’s in the Vedic tradition. Vritra was subdued, thusly freeing the waters of the world, while Tiamat spawned eleven motley chimeras before being butchered, and reformed into the mundus; analogizing one of the first splintering’s among men, and lending itself to the great peopling of the world. One can readily see how such an amalgam readily translates to the “Mistress-Master of Animals” motif.
Myth as a mode of memory constitutes both a symbolic monumentality, and epigraphical recollection.
Indeed, the gods and chimeras alike frequently subsume the qualities of those they have deposed as a matter of inheritance; they are now the representatives of said outlets and the emblem of their position is brazenly displayed--wings, horns, or in the case of the Egyptian gods and Indian gurus, the whole head or hair. In this manner did the sky father, Zeus-Jupiter, fragment into his many sons, and why Apollo in one myth gains the oracular function through overcoming the Delphic serpent. Additionally, the process explains as to why too, his own offspring replace him as the supreme healer. The world over, the quasi-divine and man-beasts of the early periods appear in the company of heroic figures where they function as sage to the younger generations.
As such the hybrids perform the office of hierophant--being one who presents the tools of initiation--to the pantheon of juvenile gods, and the new races. They inform them of the secret rites, train them in the ways of health, craftsmanship, art, and domination. Pictorially, these creatures have almost always dwelled on the outskirts of civilized societies, deep in the wilds, or as the guardians found at the base of the axis mundi, since they are the ones who act as emissary, ferrying the souls between the ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ regions. Only after the progenitor’s expulsion from places of power, having been all but drained of theirs, are simulacra erected in the homes and temples by people who continually transmogrify their likeness into an ever more civilized one; just as the decadent Bacchus is but an echo of The Sorcerer splattered along the paleolithic cave walls of Trois-Frères. Perhaps this too is but the persistent memory of the exile from a now lost paradise.
The horse-man hybrids of the ancient and classical world unequivocally are attributed to the steppe-dwelling peoples that domesticated the horse. Greek legend preserves the presence of one shaman who represented the ecstatic tradition in its primal form. Abaris the Hyperborean was capable of flight, the dissolution of disease, geomancy and more which he conveyed to the earliest Greeks. Epimenides of Crete, an ecstatic devotee of Zeus, was reported to have mastered the same body of knowledge. The education of heroes carried out by the centaur Chiron scarcely need mention in lieu of this initiate lineage. However, the figure of the centaur itself still encourages further examination.
In India, much the same is to be said of the mythical origins of the devas and others, like the Naga. The figure of the man-horse is most often attributed to the spirits known as the Gandharva. While their description is somewhat ambiguous, recall too that the centaur-satyrs in the sister traditions are often referred to as simply spirits of the wild. Here, they perform the same function as their counterparts through educating heroes, passing on occult rites, and restoring fecundity.
By the time of the Romans, this principle of restoration and fertility is embodied in the Lupercalia due to their founding at the hands of a koryos-like warband bonded to wolves. While the sacred animal may change outward appearances, the current of fertility remains. Notably, the myths of the chimeric men are careful to include signs of their lustful, powerful nature which often incurred some measure of ire from established peoples. Their excessive qualities are best intuited as ecstatic.
Georges Dumézil in contrasting the priestly caste throughout the Indo-European cultures, who themselves were concerned more with maintaining the vestiges of an inherited, decaying orthodoxy, to that of the generators of their sacred traditions, understood:
“Excess--the very cause of the accident--also provides the remedy. It is precisely because they are 'excessive' that the Gandharva and the Luperci are able to create; whereas the flamines and the brahmans, because they are merely 'correct,' only maintain."
To the first astrologers, our practices are arguably nonsensical in some areas, and somewhat indolent in others. For the progenitor sky-watchers, the heavens were more akin to a living map or book to be read more than it was a ledger awaiting tally. Not wantonly did the later mystery cults conceive of darkened caverns as their microcosmic vault of the heavens. Even amongst the most serious, students often lack the good fortune to observe the heavens with the naked eye due to modern living conditions--let alone display the aptitude to pinpoint constellations unaided. The antiquated will-governing behavior was solidified first by the heavens and required a great deal of vigor to attend to.
There are two constellations which relay most completely the heart of the chimeric mythos: Centaurus and Sagittarius.
The division is somewhat necessary given the diaspora of the original peoples who derived the arts of divination and myth, as the perceptions of them varied. The former is often attributed to the noble-savage archetype belonging to Chiron--whose mettle has long been lent overly much to Sagittarius. In the Sumerian context, Centaurus was likely an older constellation dubbed the Bison-man. The canon surrounding the Bison-men pertains to their intervention in the great lion-cattle conflict recorded on 3rd millennium seals. Bison-men slaughtered the lions, signified by the constellation Lupus, the “Mad Dog,” who assaulted the packs of livestock. Allegorically, the Bison-men were edified as the “friend to man” for saving the herds, and were elevated to the stewards of the sky-sun deity, where they guarded the gateway to his sanctuary. More plainly, they were the ‘gatekeepers’ of the Autumnal Equinox. The scorpion-men guarding the base of the solar-mound seen in later seals were their replacements. While many qualities remain connatural between the two signs, Sagittarius concerns itself more overtly with the erotic-heroes and great hunters who poured over the known world with bow in hand, hence the persistent equipage of archery.
Sagittarius fittingly occupies a position of prestige in the night sky--it heralds the winter solstice. Occurring in Capricorn, and otherwise known as the gate of ascension, the hibernal solstice holds a place of importance in numerous cultures specifically because it is a liminal period. The sun dwells at the lowest parts in the sky, few things grow, and as such, the ancestral transmission of souls was said to be frequent during this period as evidenced by the Wild Hunt, and its cognate iterations. Curiously, Manilius comments that Taurus, Cancer, Scorpius, and Sagittarius are known as maimed signs. Sagittarius, accordingly, is one-eyed, but Manilius seems to be alone in thinking so. Though there is an underlying element of truth to the comment in light of the maimed form of hierophants in the Männerbünde with their literal, and symbolic, unified vision. It also likely refers to the mechanics of aim. One occludes a portion of their body when drawing a bow, and may frequently squint or close an eye to do so--even when instinctively aiming with both eyes open, the sight is clarified into a single point which is aligned in accordance with the dominant eye. Thus, we speak of an archer’s ‘eye.’ What’s more is that Sagittarius is also in close proximity to Aquila--the Eagle--who rises concomitantly. The imperious sign corresponds to Garuda in the Vedic systems, and in the Greco-Roman, to Ganymede and Antinous. For the Mesopotamian astrologer, these constellations were known as Pabilsaĝ, “the great ancestor,” and the Dead Man respectively.
Pabilsaĝ is a chimera with human torso and head, taloned legs, and is possessed of a winged-horse’s body that culminates to the stinger of a scorpion. He also occasions to be draped in the skin of a great cat, or canine, which has been hastily interpreted as a two-headedness not unlike the god Janus. Most importantly, completing the heroic figuration, he bears in his hands a mighty bow. The Dead Man was a constellation of largely ‘unformed’ stars which have been extrapolated as an ambiguously lumped cluster that idiomatically stood for a stone, bundle, bolt, or man, clutched in the talons of a massive eagle-vulture. Despite the importance we now place on both these constellations, there are few remaining Babylonian omens explicitly attributed to both of these signs. However, this is a non-issue considering the cunning of the first oracles.
Early sky-watchers believed the vault of the heavens to be an engraved map, a guide, and each symbol operated much like the glyphs present in their own language. Just as many glyphs were compounded to express complex ideas and figures, and could be parsed in this manner, so too could the astro-mythical representatives. The component parts and accoutrement belonging to one could be linked to another through shared sympathies, and imagery; the considerable overlap and repetition found in occult systems are, in a manner of speaking, ordained and necessary. In this manner were diviners able to elucidate a complete canon of omen. With such a highly mutated form, Pabilsaĝ had quite an expansive jurisdiction--no less is to be expected from the Jovial sign. One ancient inscription describes the eagle of the Dead Man in connection to the great binding god of the sky found throughout the Indo-European tradition, relaying that “the borders of Nippur form a great net, within which the hurin-eagle spreads wide its talons,” as no “evil or wicked man” is capable of escaping their binding. The theme of a powerful bird in service of the heavens, binding and whisking away the souls of the dead, persists throughout the antiquated world: harpies, the Furies, the Valkyrie and so on. Where Pabilsaĝ and the Dead Man unite yet further, is in their astral counterpart found in near direct opposition to them in the heavens: The Arrow.
To reiterate--the ambiguous lump carried by the eagle of the Dead Man has been conceived elsewise as the fulmen of Zeus-Jupiter, a snake, and as the clutched arrows seen in Aquilla’s many renderings. Overtime it has since been codified into the asterism Saggita, solidifying its place among the celestial archer’s rapport. Given the mutable associative systems in the Babylonian art, it is important to remark that The Arrow in question named a bright star: Sirius, otherwise known as the Dog-Star. In fact, the body of Canis Major was divided into two asterisms called the Bow, and Arrow. The cluster has a long history of relation to the mother-hunt-goddess and heroic-warrior archetypes for its psychopomp function, where it often expedited said journeys acting as the instrument of deliverance: The hunter’s dog, bow and arrow, or even lightning bolt. Babylonians and Greeks distinguished it further as the star which heralded the summer solstice--indeed the ideal rising for Sirius would have occurred on the exact day of the solstice at one point for them. Ovid similarly recorded that the Romans sacrificed dogs during the heliacal rising. Critically, the Bow and Arrow were used to track the solstitial periods. Viewed as a total composition rather than semi-isolated clusters, what we espy then is the same series of star-forms who are each proximal to their respective solstitial gateways, populating the ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ heavens. With this, the two solstices are united in a manner after Porphyry’s Birth-Death pillar.
Hitherto does man find himself eternally ferried toward, and alongside, the great ancestor who dwells within the sanctuary of primordial beginnings.
As we struggle to reacquaint ourselves with the damaged, often degraded, images and myths of our forerunners, we ought to heed the awestruck words of C.W. Ceram writing one of the first sensational compendiums on archaeology in 1949:
"As we get to know more about the history of mankind, the time comes when we begin to feel the faint breath of the eternal wafted to us across the great gap of the years. We begin to see glimmerings of evidence that little human experience during five thousand years of history has actually been lost. We see, too, that often what was deemed good is now deemed bad, what once was true is now false. Regardless, the forces of the past still live on and exert their influence on us, though we may not be consciously aware of this. It is frightening to realise in full depth what it means to be a human being: that is, to realise that we are all embedded in the flux of generations, whose legacy of thought and feeling we irrevocably carry along with us. Most of us never become aware of the importance of this heritage that man alone of all mammals lugs forward through time. And seldom have we any notion how to make the most of our given burden."