View Full Version : Temporal Alchemy: Calendars as Sealed Vessels

09-04-2012, 01:52 PM
For the last decade or so I have been working on a project that concieves of the calendar as a hermetically sealed chamber through which flows of becomming, or of life force, move. Well designed calendars transform experience, as well as condition the structure of memory, in a manner that is decidedly alchemical.
The most obvious example is the Week. the 7 planetary operations run on a constant loop, and like the chambered segments of a lab apparatus, time flows through these different zones of meaning and is processed in different ways. In the ultimate analysis, one can take any image of 7: the heptagon, the octahedron, or whathaveyou, and interpret this as the distilled product of the apparatus, its stone. Such a glyph can then become a mode of mastering the temporal flows, I'd argue. So I just wanted to float this idea out there, pique interest if I can, and ask you folks what you think? The stones of time? the elixir of eternity? How can we design/re-design our calendars to achieve best results?

09-04-2012, 02:06 PM
One could put a Chinese alchemical spin onto the base 60 clock, btw, by assigning the 12 sections to the 12 animals of the chinese zodiac, and the 5 minutes in each segment to the 5 elemental "phases". Arguably this might change our relationship to 'tick tock time'.

09-04-2012, 07:37 PM
I have no input at the moment but I fully grasped this concept when you explained it to me IRL, having not 'got it' reading about it online. I liked the learning curve you spoke about. How one can make each day a segment in order to learn something complicated like astronomy or languages.

Each day of the week should be named Vitriol Invenies etc. to spell out VITRIOL. With 'sunday' being Lapidem, the Day of the Stone!


09-04-2012, 09:12 PM
That would work. What I have found is that once one has the formal elements, or frame in place, one can "skin" them any way you like, and superimpose appropriate symbolic sets onto the various divisions. This is a very strong argument for reforming the 30,31,28 mishmash of the gregorian count into something some regular: (30x12)+5, the Egyptian, would work (18x20)+5, the Mayan, (19x19)+4, the Bahai, (13x28)+1, and so on... all of these are more comprehensive ways of chambering time... "VITRIOL" could be programmed into any system that uses a 7 day week. All you'd have to do is make the appropriate word the first thing you say on that day, when you get up. Other systems can also be worked in this way, for instance, in the Mercury calendar that I developed, because the mercurial year has 88 days, there are 8, 11 day weeks, which can be used to process "abrahadabra" in the 8 directions, if one likes... there are way more options, and the more sophisticated the calendar the more alchemico/magical workings can be incorporated.

09-04-2012, 11:11 PM
It is interesting... and, at the same time, just like Dev, I have to say that I don't really understand what you are talking about (except for a very general or broad idea). Of course, unlike Dev, I haven't met you.

What I have read made me remember a LOT of very similar things that were done using spatial zones or space related concepts instead of time/calendars.
The "Art of Memory" was very much spatial or space-related (indeed, it was quite platonic, hence time was mostly discarded... probably because time and Plato are hardly able to shake hands).
In more recent times, with Letrism and Situationism, very similar things were done with space-related concepts (i.e, psychogeography).
A lot of interesting things were done with psychogeography... I do specially like the works of Nigel Ayers on that field:

Then again, what I am reading reminds me a lot of psychogeography, except that it's about time and not about space (of course, I could be completely missunderstanding the whole thing).
The only texts I remember about something like a psychogeography of the calendar are by the London Psychogeographical Association... and the 2 articles they published in their newsletter #18 im 1997 (or "398" in their "Modern Khemetic Calendar").

Of course, those 2 articles were quite ironic and, probably, tongue in cheek jokes or hoaxes... and, even in that case, their theory didn't really went too far.

I am interested in what you are saying, though also a bit confused.

09-04-2012, 11:27 PM
Have you heard of pathworking? Where you project into the tarot trumps, in order from 0-21? The entire narrative takes you an a journey, and ultimately leads to an insight. Well, imagine a pathworking where you spend exactly 4 days in each card. that would take 88 days. The mercury calendar keeps accurate track of where the planet mercury is in it's orbital cycle (heliocentric). It crosses the solar equator going northward in 18 degrees Taurus. it will take 88 days to go all the way around. This is stable. So, with this system, you could time a pathworking to be in synch with the actual physical orbit of the planet itself. This is possible with others as well. What ends up happening is that the psyche, which is like mercury in that it changes shape to fit it's container, learns to develop a rythm that is accurately in time with the orbits of the planets. This fulfills, in a post copernican world one of the goals of the old Platonists: to bring the mind into synch with the heavens. Above, below. This is the basic theory. It is related to the art of memory as well. If you want, I can detail that in a later post.

09-05-2012, 01:33 AM
You definitely caught my attention.
You also made me think.
Kant used to say that time and space are the two a priori categories we use to perceive the world.
A lot of interesting things were done with space and correspondences (from the old art of memory to the modern psychogeography... from placing the tree of life in the temple or the body to distributing the elements in the cardinal points)... but time remained quite untouched, except for some very basic ideas (the days of the week and the planets, the planetary hours of each day, the Tattwas timetables, the prevalence of different elements according to the seasons, etc).

But, somehow, for some reason or other these different systems of correspondences and analogies have always been by far more deeply involved with space than with time. That's what I find interesting about what you are bringing here. Do I want to hear more? YES, PLEASE (in capitals!).

Thank you! :)

09-05-2012, 03:59 PM
Well, I'll see what I can do. I think that the "spacial" privileging has a couple of aspects. Firstly, it is cultural. As you pointed out, in the west, we have a mostly spacial idea of the art of memory: that is we use loci systems that are grounded in buildings and the like. But I doubt, though, that the "time and space" dichotomy, that you locate, rightly, in Kant, is much older than that. It seems to me that the treatment of the two as separate and distinct opposites, really had it's birth in the enlightenment, with Descartes and the like, and then of course, collapses with Einstein. The enlightenment is a very interesting period, and I would argue that it's impetus was the cosmological shift generated by Copernicus. Moving towards a heliocentric model of the universe, we began to see reason's role differently. For one thing, imagination was demoted completely, and for another we came to think that everything was calculable, and that the world of appearances was filled with illusions that could only be dispelled by discovering the mechanisms behind them (like exposing a magic trick). Foucault suggests that we moved from a ternary mode of thought to a binary, mode, and came to be only interested in deterministic phenomena. There are many many issues here, and I think we can unpack them, gradually, in this thread, but the main thing I want to note is that before Descartes, and after Einstein, time and space as categories are entangled.

Now not all cultures have taken this route. Clearly the Maya were obsessed with time. They had 17 calendars at least, doing different things, and they thought in massive massive cycles, when they could. I suppose my work was jumpstarted by an interest in their calendrics, and I sensed that I could bring that insight into my work with the western tradition. To be fair, I am a synchretist. I also looked at the Chinese systems with the same eye (the I Ching, notably), and my desire was to bring in three streams: east, west, and central, in order to come up with a system that is informed by all of them.

The Maya's calendrical observations included calendars based on other planets, but we need to be clear: these were synodic cycles, that is the behavior of the other planet was observed in relation to the earth and the sun. I suspect you know what I mean, but for sake of clarity, and having a complete document, here it is: when we, on our moving earth, look at another planet, it is always in relation to our own position regarding the sun, which is the anchor of observations, as it were. We can have 4 configurations: a conjunction (we share the same degrees on the same side of the sun) with the planet, an opposition with the planet (A line drawn between the planet, the sun and earth), and two cases where the planet forms a 90 degree angle between us and the sun. The famous synodic cycle of venus is 584 days, and this is special because of how evenly it fits into 8 earth years (five times, almost without remainder). Other Mayan systems track other planets in this fashion.

In contrast, my work has been based on the heliocentric orbits of various planets. The three planets that I tackled first were Mercury, Mars, then Venus. I started with their North Nodes, as described in the previous posts (Where they intersect the solar equator), and then I looked at the planetary period in terms of Earth Days.

These are calendars, for people on earth, who wish to synchronize meditations or other projects with other planets. So once I know the period, in earth days, I can subdivide the cycle into the equivalent of Months, and weeks and so on. I do this with an eye to a) the easiest divisions, and b) as symbol-rich mnemonic frames. Basically I will take the orbital period, and make it into a memory palace.

Mercury is the simplest. 88 days. 11x8. I will construct 8, 11fold chambers, one in each direction. I have actually used the Chartres Labyrinth pattern, with an 8-fold wheel superimposed. I will then, over the course of the mercurial year meditate on each of these 8 houses, and their 11 rooms. I can also plan projects that flow through these pre-ordained transformations, and them carry them out over the course of the 88 day period. This is what I mean by a chambered approach to time.

In addition to the subdivisions within the 88 days, the "micro-annual cycles", I have also grouped them into "packets" of 4 years, in other words, 352 days. I use the standard elemental order of fire, water, air, and earth to code these four years, respectively. Using this method, I can then use the Mercury as a timeline to conceive, flesh out, articulate and finally manifes, a project based on the very close, yet also fairly broad, patterns of the calendar. Does this make sense? There is short range temporal thinking, and then mid range, and then long range. If they are well integrated, then this is a powerful methodology. Lastly, I will take 9 of these groups of 4 mercurial years, and arrange them into 3 initiating/ascending, 3 apex, and 3 grounding/descending groups. I will also see these as matching the so called 9 houses of the Chinese Lo Shu (The magic square that the greeks assigned to Saturn). This takes approximately 8.5 earth years. 4 of THESE, then following the same elemental pattern is 144 orbits of mercury, or roughly 34 earth years. This is the largest cycle of the mercury count, and represents a program of development that goes through the 4 stages, at a pretty slow rate. Calendrics is a patient person's game. It enables plans to be initiated over long periods of time, but with plenty of close range goals and markers to keep interest.

One need not be ALWAYS meditating on the counts for them to work. Once one has put some thought into it, I find they carry out their work in a subterranean manner, and one can notice phases of one's life automatically synching up with them. In periods where one focuses intensely on following the counts, many insights, artworks, and the like occur such that it deepens the experience, and that depth remains, conscious or otherwise, in periods when one is not consciously tracking the calendars.

Right now, by the way, is the 37th year since the Thoth Count's innauguration, so it has gone through all 9 "houses" of the fire phase. These timed it's initial development. My next 9 houses (8 earth years), the water phase, will be about fleshing out the discoveries of the last period. After that, an air, and then finally an earth phase. A 34 (earth) year meditation, comprising 144 orbits of Mercury.

I have spent the last 9 years developing the system. I have not mastered the art of explaining it to others, or of presenting it in a comprehensive form. For me, speaking about it, writing about it, making various illustrative images, is the challenge I currently face, especially now after the initial spark has been processed. A friend and I have developed a calendar tracking program, here: http://yellowseed.org/daycount.js/explorer.html

We are working on another program that actually prints out a 365 page journal, with all the pertinent data on each page, and it is this tool, to be launched on Dec 22nd, that will be the basis of this praxis in the future. Essentially a journaling practice within a highly pattern-rich approach to time.

Also important. I don't cancel or negate the validity any other calendars. I criticize the structural defects of the Gregorian, but my logic here is to affirm all systems, and let the best designed ones sort themselves out via natural selection. The calendar tool will thus enable one to use the Gregorian, or the mayan, or the Bahaii, or whatever other calendar one wishes too. You can see in our daycounter that we have concordances across several cultural calendars. I do not think "there can be only one". I am pushing for a totally polycalendrical culture, if I can.

I realize this is dense, and if it is unclear, that is due to defects in my own communications. I will try to clarify any issues/questions that you might have. Thank you for your interest.


09-05-2012, 06:12 PM
Incidently, here is a wikia article, on the system as it was about 2 years ago. A great deal has been discovered since then, so it is somewhat out of date. It will however demonstrate the counting boards, and hopefully give you some insight into the project: http://calendars.wikia.com/wiki/Ibisystem

09-05-2012, 06:14 PM
Another flaw of the article is a bit too much academese. I will correct that when I get down to revising it.

09-05-2012, 06:21 PM
The "Art of Memory" was very much spatial or space-related (indeed, it was quite platonic, hence time was mostly discarded... probably because time and Plato are hardly able to shake hands).

This is true, but we should remember that all astrology is essentially about time. The 36 decanates, 72 quinances are a mnemonic coding of thezodiac: ostensibly a spacial matter but really a temporal matter: chart is a "snapshot of a moment". Again, the pre enlightenment entanglement of time and space. As is the logic of Aeonics. Actually we could call these various "chambers" of time, be they the days of the week, or the larger spans of time, "Aeons", as that is basically what this is. Time as Aeon, rather than Chronos. Make sense?