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Scribed by Gnaeus

Spring 1272AD

Zeno wrote that for motion to occur, an object must change its position. For example, for an arrow in flight, in any one instant of time, the arrow is neither moving to where it is (because it is already there), nor to where it is not (because no time elapses for it to move there). Thus, in every instant of time there is no motion occurring. However, if everything is motionless at every instant and time is entirely composed of all of these instants, then motion is impossible.

Of course, motion and change appear possible, which tells us one of three things:

Firstly, perhaps all motion and change is an illusion. The physical world is eternal and immobile, but our relations with it alter in the ideal and this forms our perceptions of motion and change. In other words, our perception of the world is not of the world, but the mind’s record of its interactions with it. This would imply that the mind is outside of time and not constrained by it. For if the mind was constrained by time, then the movement and change of thought would also be impossible.

Second, perhaps time cannot be divided infinitesimally into instants. Therefore, the arrow is never motionless because there exists the smallest measure of time which is not zero. However, if time is staccato then why does motion not appear so? When an arrow flies, it moves not in fits and starts, after all. There is also the logical impossibility of this. What division of time could not be further divided? Like water, if time is the sort of thing that can be divided, then those divisions must also be divisible. I may scoop a cup of water from a bucket, but also take a drop from that cup. With sufficient care, what limitation could there be on dividing and then further dividing that drop?

Lastly, perhaps time itself is an illusion. The world appears in perpetual motion and change, because we describe our relations with it through the idea of time. Therefore, the past, the present and the future are not part of existence, but merely a description of our experience of change and motion. This implies that past, present and future co-exist within the world and are merely divided into these portions by the mind. Furthermore, it implies that has been, is and will be all exist at once and that our apparent journey through these states is a mundane limitation of our perception.

Of these, I believe the second is evidently false and the first and last may be synthesised together. Think of the arrow, not in flight, its position changing from moment to moment, but having already flown. In the world, the arrow is simultaneously nocked against the bow, leaving the bow, half-way to the target, reaching the target and struck, in a static and unchanging world frozen across time. Our mind merely traces this path, creating the illusion of motion and the passing of time.

Two questions then emerge: First, why this apparent moment? Why do I happen to perceive the arrow in flight rather than having already flown? What chose for me to perceive this apparent movement rather than the state of the world one hundred years before the arrow flew or one hundred years after (which co-exist with this apparent moment of the present)? Secondly, why this apparent movement? If the past is not causal to the present and thus causal to the future, then what chose for the arrow to follow that path?

The answers to these questions can only be the divine. For whatever reasons, He has determined that I exist in this apparent moment and He has determined the apparent path the arrow has taken. The question then must be, has the divine also defined my apparent motion through time and the world? If past, present and future co-exist, so does my birth, my life and my eventual death: frozen across time in an arc like the path of the arrow. Perhaps that is the nature of free will? Has the divine granted mere humanity the ability to alter the otherwise frozen path of the arrow (through use of magic, for instance) and the path of our lives (through choice)?

These are the questions that strike me as a place these words into the record of this covenant. As I write them, do they ‘become history’? Were the founders of this covenant to read my words, they would represent ‘the future’, but is this the only history (for us) or future (for them)? Were there other paths this arrow could have flown?

Matters of council were more prosaic than these philosophical musings. There was an interesting discussion about plans to construct an item which could allow us to communicate over great distances. Combining versions of the spells ‘Words of unbroken silence’ and ‘The ear for distance voices’ might allow, through the contagion of an arcane connection, a magus to send instructions to distant companion and receive news (provided they could talk without drawing attention to themselves).

Covenant services were discussed. This season, Erla shall make potions which grant the effect ‘Veil of invisibility’ and I shall add an enchantment to the Sapphire blade which detects the supernatural nature of any aura. I also requested and received permission to read from the library on the art of Vim during the late hours when no other would be using them.

There was also some fairly ill-humoured politics at council. Justinian remains under the punishment of excordis and his plans for the season and the year were subject to council discussion and vote. His plans for this season involved travelling to the covenant of Borri Tor, which has suffered attacks from magically-risen corpses. They believe there is some manner of spirit directing these attacks and requested Justinian’s assistance. Related to this expertise, Justinian requested to spend his free time developing his practice and understanding of his second sight. These votes were passed, but not unanimously. Given my ignorance of the roots of these tensions, I abstained on all votes. It seems Erla and Husam were principally opposed to Justinian’s plans, but motions were passed with the votes of Justinian himself, Lysimachus and Astrius.

One question did arise from this discussion; the fate of Solis Castle covenant. With the loss of so many magi from that place in recent years, it is believed that only the maga Marissa of Merinita may yet reside there. Solis Castle has a reputation for having a weak magical aura, perhaps due to the considerable mundane activity around the castle itself. Justinian planned, none-the-less, to take the ship via Solis Castle in the hope of obtaining a guide to take him north to Borri Tor.

Other than a distribution of vis and coin, there were no other matters of note. The season itself passed peacefully, with Justinian returning later in the season.

Summer

The existence of spirits provides a curious puzzle for Hermetic magicians. Clearly influenced by his teacher Socrates, Plato considered the spirit or psyche to be the essence of a person, being that which decides how we behave. For those ancients, psyche meant life or consciousness, and was derived from a verb meaning to blow (hence referring to the breath), as opposed to soma, meaning body. Socrates considered this essence to be an incorporeal, eternal occupant of our being, existing and able to think even after death. Plato tells us that this essence is formed of three parts: the logos (relating to the mind and ability to reason), the thymos (relating to emotions) and eros (relating to appetites and desires). Plato thought that only logos was immortal, and this thinking clearly influenced Bonisagus who formulated magic relating to spirits and the mind together as the form mentem. However, it is clear that Hermetic magic possesses limitations and contradictions in this regard – for example, demonic spirits fall within the form of vim and the limitations in our understanding of entities like animal spirits are well documented.

One might hope for answers to these puzzles in the work of Plato’s student, Aristotle. However, what is surprising is that in De Anima, Aristotle appears to oppose Plato in regard to the immortality of the psyche. Aristotle defines the psyche as a practical outcome of a naturally organized body, and argues against its separate existence from the soma. In Aristotle's view, the primary activity, of a living thing constitutes its psyche. Therefore, the psyche of a human being would be living a fully functional human life in accordance with reason.

For Aristotle, the psyche is the organisation of the form and matter of a natural being which allows it to strive for its full function. For example, a house is a building for human habituation, but for a house to be fully functional requires the material (wood, nails, bricks, etc.) necessary for its function. This does not imply that a house has a psyche, of course, as the source of motion that is required for that full function is outside of itself (i.e. a builder builds a house). In natural beings, Aristotle argues that this source of motion is contained within the being itself. How can this philosophy be consistent with Hermetic observations of occult entities? Surely the existence of disembodied spirits shows that the philosophies of Aristotle are as incomplete as Plato’s?

Simple ghosts, which appear tied to their body or the place where they died, often appear as echoes of thymos (reliving emotions like anger or fear) and eros (acting upon appetites like the desire to be destructive or vengeful), but rarely appear to act with complex purpose (which would imply some element of logos). One possibility is that what we perceive as ‘spirits’ are merely the ‘echoes’ of a psyche which once was embodied. Much as the sound of a voice (given substance by the breath of a living person) may repeat itself back in the absence of that person, perhaps what we perceive as spirits are the echoes of psyche merely reverberating in the aether after the demise of the body. However, some non-Hermetic magicians claim that ghosts can be ‘restored’ to some higher faculty of thought through the use of their magic. Is it possible, that this magic uses the magician’s own body to ‘house’ the logos of such spirits? Essentially, is the magician is lending something of their own soma to temporarily house the echo of a psyche? This may explain why those most purposeful of ghosts appear to haunt particular individuals rather than places.

How can this explain infernal spirits? This question appears to have a simple answer: demonic entities are embodied. The bible tells us that God created a race of angels but that some of these entities rebelled against him and were cast down into hell. As embodied beings, it seems reasonable to presume angels have psyche. If true, then it seems a reasonable presumption of devils. Thus demons are not truly spirits, in the sense we often use, but feats of magic which allow devils to interact with the mundane world from hell. These former angels simply have the ability to create magical projections of themselves. This may help explain why vim is the form related to the warding and destruction of such entities – the magic of rego or perdo vim interferes with the magic used to maintain and act through this magical projection. Thus, it is impossible to ‘destroy’ a demon (in the same sense we can destroy earth or a corporeal body), merely possible to break whatever magic devils use to project themselves on Earth.

However, this explanation provides little insight into the actions of so-called natural spirits such as faeries and animal spirits which appear to act with motivation in the absence of ever having had a physical body. Aristotle identifies three hierarchical levels of natural beings: plants, animals, and people. For these groups, he identifies three corresponding levels of psyche, or functional activity: the nutritive activity of growth, sustenance and reproduction which all life shares; the self-willed motive activity and sensory faculties, which only animals and people have in common; and finally "reason", of which he argued people alone are capable. I wonder whether the apparent contradictions arise from an under-generalisation: whilst psyche requires embodiment within the soma, there is an question as to what constitutes an appropriate ‘body’ to give rise to a ‘spirit’.

The ancients believed that Zeus created the Myrmidons, a race of brave and loyal warriors, from a colony of ants. Whether or not this legend is true, what is observed is that despite their humble bodies, colonies of ants live together in peace and share work fairly. When considering the soma which gives rise to psyche, would it be appropriate to consider the colony as well as the individual ant? Each individual ant may have only simple appetites and emotions, but as a colony they act with such unity of purpose that perhaps we may say that the psyche of the colony transcends the psyche of each individual. Perhaps this gives a clue as to how ‘natural spirits’ might apparently arise from such comparatively simple entities like plants or wolves. Each individual possesses limited psyche, but collectively could that psyche transcend the limitations of the individual? Should we consider the soma which gives rise to psyche as a collective body (as well as a discrete one)? Would a significant collective body provides a psyche capable of not only thymos and eros but also some measure of logos?

These philosophical musings preoccupied me during council as we discussed Justinian’s encounter with some sort of infernal spirit behind the undead attacks against Borri-Tor covenant. He travelled with Emerius to a dell within a nearby wood which was believed to be the source of these attacks. The party were struck by magics which rendered the grogs terrified and undead emerged from shallow graves to attack the living, yet the magi were able to locate this dell and Justinian was able to locate and banish an infernal spirit hiding within the shadows. This appears to have ended the attacks upon the covenant, but there are still a number of mysteries unanswered such as what battle or plague had rendered so many dead bodies available for the demon to raise, and what caused the demon to focus these attacks upon the covenant.

This season, the Tribunal of Stonehenge will meet at Blackthorn covenant. The council discussed some of the debates and votes they anticipated would be raised at this meeting. On matter was the election of a magus to the position of ‘Praefectus’, but perhaps the most pressing matter would relate to news that a group of monks acting with the authority of the Inquisition would be travelling to England early next year.

Lysimachus explained that the Inquisition is a group within the judicial system of the Roman Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy. Born from a perceived need to root out the Cathars and the Waldensians, inquisitors are generally chosen from members of the Dominican Order. Under processus per inquisitionem (inquisitional procedure) an ecclesiastical magistrate does not need a formal accusation to summon and try a defendant (unlike the secular legal system in England). Instead, an ecclesiastical court can summon and interrogate witnesses of its own initiative, and if the (possibly secret) testimony of those witnesses accuses a person of a crime, that person can then be summoned and tried. The legal basis for the inquisition came from Pope Innocent IV's papal bull Ad extirpanda of 1252, which explicitly authorised the use of torture by the Inquisition for eliciting confessions from heretics. Their impending presence in England is both puzzling and concerning – though ostensibly the Inquisition investigate cases of heresy within the Church there’s palpable anxiety that the investigation might secretly involve the activities of Hermetic magi.

There was considerable debate as to whether Justinian (who intends to continue his training at Laycock Abbey with his Primus this season) should raise this matter with Ptolemaeus. Astrius counselled against the idea (though it’s clear that Corpus Dominii does not enjoy the trust of several council members), but agreed that Justinian should use his non-Hermetic talent of divinatory dreams to try to reveal the purpose of this inquisitorial investigation.

We reconvened the next morning and Justinian related his vision. He saw what appeared to be a throne room within a great church or cathedral. A dove fluttered around the room before settling to the floor – whereupon a shadow crossed over it. From the side of the chamber, a large hound padded into the room. From above, a hawk descends and speaks with the hound. Following this the hound leaves the chamber. Justinian was able to offer limited interpretation of what this dream might mean. He suggested that the dove represented a group of individuals. This group doesn’t realise it, but is threatened by Pope (symbolised by the hawk). The conversation between the hawk and the hound symbolised some conspiracy against the group represented by the dove. The hound also represents a group, one that it is a direct threat to the group symbolised by the dove.

This season, Astrius will complete covenant service through extracting vis from the aura.

I remained within the covenant whilst the rest of council attended the Tribunal. News from the meeting included the issue of the Inquisition. House Mercere has uncovered that the investigation is looking for followers of Joachim Fiore. This quite obscure heresy involves a belief that the world is entering “The Age of the Holy Spirit”, when mankind is to come in direct contact with God. In this new Age, the hierarchy of the Church will become unnecessary and will be replaced and the “Order of the Just” that will rule the Church. Evidently, the Pope considers this teaching dangerous to his authority – but unlike the Cathars, there is no mass movement which might reasonably attract the attention of the Inquisition.

Perhaps quite naturally, given this news, the Tribunal looked to its defences. Praeco Arcanus will approach Primus Flambeau with the request that Magus Emerius be appointed as a permanent hoplite within Stonehenge. The Tribunal also voted in favour of appointing a Praefectus (with powers to impose Tribunal services in times of great need, moderated by the need to justify these services to the Tribunal). Archimagus Astrius narrowly defeated Primus Olafsson in a vote to become the Praefectus of Stonehenge.

There was also some discussion related to Lysimachus’ role in the aftermath of an assassination attempt against King Theo. Lysimachus gave account of his actions (entirely within his mundane guise as Chancellor of the King’s College), but the Tribunal felt there was sufficient grounds to instruct Senior Quaesitor Luvidicus to investigate the matter more fully by the next Tribunal.

Other than Justinian returning early from Laycock Abbey (apparently his Primus was surprised to hear the news about the Inquisition and left in haste to investigate) - the rest of the season passed without event of note.

Autumn

I have been asked to refrain from discussing philosophical musings within the journal. However, Lysimachus’ predicament regarding his mundane role as Chancellor of King’s College invites a wider consideration. The ancients themselves asked whether philosophers should act politically, or should they abstain from politics in order to live a life of pure contemplation. They also questioned whether philosophers should even think politically. Were mundane affairs worth thinking about in the broadest perspective opened by the study of nature and religious thought? In engaging with questions of rhetoric, virtue, knowledge, and justice, Socrates was most certainly engaged with the political, but for Plato and Aristotle, the practice and even the study of human affairs such as politics were considered less admirable than the broader study of truth about nature and realms of the divine: Philosophy might have to address the political but its highest calling soared above it. Is such also true for a magus?

Is mundane politics a distraction from matters of higher truth – or should magi also have concern for civic and moral virtue within the world beyond covenant gates? If philosophers and magi absence themselves from the affairs of politics, is not politics essentially vulnerable for lack of that wisdom? What if, through lack of that wisdom, the politics falls to tyranny and injustice? What if, through lacking the value of wisdom, politics decides to oppress the wise? How can a Kingdom conduct its affairs and value wisdom, if the wise absent themselves from the affairs of the Kingdom?

Thus, as Lysimachus prepares to distance himself from mundane affairs of the Kingdom, he must at least take care to maintain his influence over the King’s College. The King’s College represents not merely a place of learning, but a moral good. However, I think his difficulties at Tribunal represent a microcosm of a larger problem: the Order of Hermes will eventually be forced revisit its relationship with the wider politics. The days when the wise could absent themselves from politics without consequence are surely coming to an end.

An omen in proof of this problem: Justinian shared another divinatory dream with council. In his dream he was lost within shadow and mist, eventually spying a light up ahead. This light grew larger – at first seemingly a candle, then a torch, then a brazier before finally a great bonfire. His ears rang with the howls and cries of men and women being burnt at the stake: Within the flames he saw the faces of monks and nuns. He found himself tied to one of these stakes: watching him burn was a group of armoured men and other monks giving witness to the suffering.

The season, however, passed without incident.

Winter

It appears any mention of philosophy is not considered appropriate for the journal, therefore I shall endeavour to constrain this entry to the bare facts of the season.
Reports at council included Husam’s investigation into the ship used by the White Lady and her allies, the Ain Fian. With the spymaster, Husam has arranged a set of signals which will be used to bring rapid news should the vessel make appearance in any of the major ports along the south coast. There is also a possible lead in the investigation against them. It may be that the amphorae used to store blood are distinctive enough that their origin of manufacture may be traced. It may even be possible to use the ritual “Greet the Maker” to obtain further clues about our enemies. As covenant service, Husam and Lysimachus will travel to London to seek out any remaining amphorae which could be used for such purpose.

Astrius also presented his new apprentice, Ogwyn, to the council. As covenant service, Justinian will enchant an item which can bestow the spell effect “Glimpse through the Mystic Veil”.

Towards the end of the season, Husam and Lysimachus returned with a fragment of an amphora recovered from Clerkenwell in London. They had also traced the activities of the Ain Fain as far as Ipswich last year – where it took on “wine vessels” and dropped off two passengers.

Attempts to scry upon the location of the amphora proved fruitless (either the rest of the vessel was destroyed, overseas, within a regio or simply out of range). Husam attempted to use the Intellego Terram ritual to learn more about its construction – however, something about the magic went terribly wrong.

Husam found himself transported by a vision to some kind of dungeon. In this dream, he was suspended upside down and in chains which burnt his skin. He reported that his throat had been cut and that his ebbing life’s blood was being collected in vessel below him. Husam was approached by a figure: pale and deathly, dark veins marking his skin. This figure, who he thought might be Guyere, questioned him at length. Husam could not recall precisely what was asked, but knew that he had been compelled to answer. His fear is that Guyere was somehow able to question his spirit and that our enemy now knows all of our suspicions and intelligence regarding the Fells; and may also have discovered the presence of Emma and the Crown of Math within the covenant.

With this unsettling news, the season and the year comes to an end.



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