As a budding witch or even as someone who has been a witch for a long time, you’ll find that one of the finer things in life is that you don’t have to get up at the wee hours of the morning to head to church where you may or may not even develop any interest in the sermon being presented. Now, hold your breath before the screams of outrage start as the previous statement is not intended as an insult to those who do go to church and find their spirit filled and complete in doing so: As these individuals are spiritually fulfilled in their own right and very blessed. It is to say, however, that as Witches and Wiccans, we have a temple that is far easier to get to each day and we don’t even have to step out of bed before we’re in it … we are the temple in which the Divine connects with us and we connect with the Divine … that’s right … we are the sacred site where we can commune with God/Goddess energies anytime we desire! In fact, the connection between God/Goddess and us is ongoing, all the time, for we are part of the very energy that created us!
The Divine Within
The Divine within us is a reference to the creator that lives through us and all things. You’ve likely heard it best said that we are spirits having a human experience on this earth, well for Wiccans it is a bit more than that as we believe the Divine, the one creator, which is broken down into easier to digest and understand figures like a God and a Goddess with characteristics much like our own demonstrated through personification, lives and dwells within us. We are therefore both creation and creator or co-creator, as well as individuals in which the Divine chooses to conduct works through us while being present within us simultaneously! The idea that the Divine is part of each and every one of us is not new … but an ancient understanding taught, not just in Wiccan circles, but in other religious bodies of work.
Hermetic Teachings and The Emerald Tablet
For starters, we can turn well-known and pervasive hermetic understandings to begin to explore where the notion of the divine within first stems; Some call this phrase the “As Above, So Below Hermetic Axiom” which is an important magical text derived from the Emerald Tablet.
(*And just a side note before continuing …Yes, while the “As Above, So Below” horror flick was a great film about the Paris underground catacombs and the imagined monstrous creatures dwelling there, mind you the axiom has nothing to do with Paris, the catacombs, monsters, or horror for that matter!).
The first few sentences of the Emerald Tablet reads as follows:
Verum, sine mendacio, certum et verissimum: “Quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius.”
And with a bit of help from the world’s most informative digital friend Google Translate, we come to discover the ancient Latin clearly expresses the following: “As above, So below,” axiom that serves as the key to magical workings and understandings. The translation more succinctly:
True and without error, but certainly most true: “That which is below is like that which is above, is that which is above is like that which is below…”
(but it looks a heck of a lot cooler in Latin, just in case you plan to jot it down in your Book of Shadows and you want that gnarly, eye-catching effect!)
Now “The As Above, So Below Axiom” is profound indeed, but how does this explain the Divine within us all? So glad you asked!
The Meaning of the Emerald Tablet Teachings
This tablet, sometimes called the Tabula Smaragdina or the Smaragdine, contains the teachings or sacred words of Hermes Trismegistus (Hermes Thrice Great or otherwise known as the merging of the Greek God Hermes, a deity ruling boundaries and communication, and the Egyptian God of Writing and Wisdom, Thoth). The Axiom literally suggests that what is Above in Heaven, is replicated below on Earth and that the Macrocosmos is not only reflective of the microcosmos but connected. Alchemists hold this tablet as the foundation for the Hermetic teachings. (The origins of The Emerald Tablet, of course, are unknown but the writings, while attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, are suspected Arabic writings stemming from around the sixth or eight centuries C.E.).
Now, as an alchemist might do, let’s boil this down further for ease of understanding:
The tablet’s writing serves as an explanation for how everything stems from God or the Divine, that God is both man and woman, and this brings us to the understanding that the masculine and feminine divine energies course through our very veins. From our understanding, the God and Goddess, or Universal Soul are what we come from and to whom we are called: We are indeed, with every cell in our body, part of the Divine.
Also, stemming from the Tablet is the following passage:
“Its father is the Sun, its mother is the Moon; the wind carried it in its belly; its nurse is the Earth. This is the father of all perfection of the whole world. Its power is integral, if it be turned into earth … It ascends from the earth into the heaven, and again descends into the earth and receives the power of the superiors and inferiors.” (The Words of Hermes Trismegistus from the Emerald Tablet)
Interestingly, the Sun and Moon are also referenced in The Emerald Tablet; for the alchemists, these were symbols for Gold and Silver. For modern day Wiccans, they are symbols corresponding with the God and Goddess, and the above passage expresses the interconnectedness and influence of the universe, Divine, the heavens, and humankind.
The Gospel of Thomas and the Apocryphal Texts
The idea that we are not just created by the Divine, but have the Divine running through us and all things is not a new idea, and there’s evidence that the idea comes up in more than one religion. Let’s diverge from pagan writings and understandings for one moment to examine this idea in brief…
It may seem bizarre to mention an apocryphal Christian text when discussing pagan concepts, but there is even some support of the divine being within us and all around us in the Gospel of Thomas. Of course, the term apocryphal means “doubtful,” so this particular gospel, as well as others like the Gospel of Mary; The Gospel of Mary Magdalene; and the most recently discovered body of work, the Gospel of Judas, is excluded by those who selected the works to be included in the Bible. Scholars suggest the Gospel of Thomas can be dated back as far as the second century but was only discovered in the mid-1940s in Egypt. It’s writing however, seems quite pagan-like:
“Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.”(1)
In this gospel, or so it seems, that a person does not need a middle man or mediatrix, like a priest or a spirit like the virgin Mary or some other saint, to make some kind of connection with God, and this idea flies right in the face of many early Christian teachings and practices at the time. In fact, you are invited to begin to understand God through the first step of knowing yourself – an act that seems almost too simple to believe a valid or possible option. Quite interestingly though, the concept of knowing yourself has always been an important and emphasized pagan practice: It’s an important enough practice that the same directive appears above the doorway of the ancient Oracle of Delphi A temple dedicated to the god Apollo where Pythia the High Priestess served as oracle to those who visited the temple seeking divinatory answers to their question. And…guess what, it also appears in the more modern Thirteen Goals of a Witch, by Scott Cunningham, with the very first goal being “To know thyself.”
Free Will and Doing No Harm to Others
So, we all have free will and as Wiccans, we assert that it is wrong for us to infringe on the free will of another. One of the moral teachings that Wiccans aspire to stems from an eight-lined passage in the Wiccan Rede, “And if it harm none, do what ye will.” To that end, we are free to do as we choose, to master our own reality and to manifest that which we desire …. but hold up your horses there as you can’t go off to the races just yet! We must think of the consequences of our actions before we act, and we must not set out to manifest a reality that might be harmful to another or even ourselves for that matter. Is this a commandment of some kind you ask? Well, quite frankly, no it isn’t. It is a principle: Something we strive to achieve and adhere to because we are moral beings. As Wiccans, we don’t follow commandments, we aspire to be great beings and do all we can to fulfill that role as we live our daily lives and work toward happiness.
Rule of Three
Ahh … and here comes that Rule of Threefold Return popping up and warning us again of our obligation to ourselves and the world to make every effort to keep our energies positive. Yes, you can manifest what you desire, but at what costs? Considering the potential consequences is your actions will ultimately determine whether or not you are dealing with a positive outcome or if, in some way, you end up paying way more for what you desire than its worth.
Take this scenario for example: Imagine you really want a promotion in your job and you’d do anything to get it. As such, you cast a spell to make it happen, and lo and behold, you get the promotion you’ve always wanted just like that! Oh, but as a side note, because you didn’t think about or know all the possible outcomes of your actions, your best friend, who works at the same place, had to be laid off to keep costs under control. You see, that big raise you’re getting has got to come from somewhere, but hey, what’s a few budget cuts, right? Bottomline, whether you believe in the rule of three or not it universally applies and what you put out into the world will eventually revisit you one way or another.
Since you have the Divine coursing through you, there are a few things you might want to consider, with the first being the absence of self-harm. Eating right, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and caring for your health are one good way to honor the very vessel carrying the Divine. Of course, you will want to consider your behaviors as well, and those that are not suiting you or are not very becoming, you’ll want to eradicate since you want to be poised, humbled, and honored to serve as a worldly reflection of the Universe within you.
Again, the Thirteen Goals of a Witch prove instructive here, with instructions suggesting you become more balanced; that you monitor and control your words and thoughts; that you align and attune yourself to earthly energies, and that you breathe and eat correctly. As a final note, adhering to that which is set forth in the Witches’ Rede of Chivalry, can also help you feel like a worthy vessel for the divine within you; the latter-mentioned rede suggests being honest in all dealings and adhering to your word like iron, all while working tirelessly at keeping yourself “above reproach in the eyes of the world.”
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham
The Emerald Tablet by Hermes Trismegistus
The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts Complete in One Volume by Marvin W. Meyer and Elaine H.