6- 2nd Theurgical Operation: Binding and releasing

Through the operations of Desmós kai Éklusis (Binding and Releasing) a God or Daimôn is called to take temporary possession of a person. The terminology is from traditional magic, but in theurgy we must interpret "binding" in the sense already discussed ("Theurgic Invocation"): preparing a suitable receiver for the divine energy. In fact, the easiest was to understand Desmos is as Telestikę in which a human receiver replaces an agalma (divine image).

But first some terminology. The theurgist, who invokes the God or Daimôn, is referred to as the Klętôr (CLAY-tor, Caller) or Theagôgós(God-evoker), whereas the subject is referred to as the Dókheus (Recipient), Theatęs (Seer), or Kátokhos (the "Held-down One"). They may be the same person (i.e., the theurgist may call the divinity to seize themselves), but this more advanced operation will be described later ("Autodesmos") and for now we will treat them as different people.

In Desmos, sumbola and sunthęmata are used in much the same way as in Telestikę (with obvious adaptations, some of which are described later). The goal again is to "tune" both the Caller and the Receiver so that they are receptive to the divine power (dunamis) and actualize the divine energy (energeia). This allows the energy to awaken and shine forth, in the souls of both the Caller and Receiver, as well as in the material environment.

The advantage of Desmos over Telestikę is that the Receiver is a human being, and therefore they can speak with the divinity's voice. On the other hand, the disadvantage of a human Receiver is that their soul may (consciously or unconsciously) contaminate the revelation from the God. Less obviously, there is a danger that the Receiver's personal daimones (see "Personal Daimones" previous pages) may seize them, rather than their being possessed by the God or Daimôn who was invoked. (Similar problems can arise in Telestikę, for the theurgist is human too, but they don't usually directly contaminate the receiving image.) This is the reason that naive young boys were often used as Recipients in ancient times: they are less likely to put their own ideas and personalities in the way, an their personal daimones (especially sexual daimones) are fewer and weaker. They have what theurgists term epitędiótęs (suitability, fitness). In general, we can see that the Seer needs to be able to enter a trance state in which their conscious mind is quiet; their personal daimones should be pacified and dormant during the operation. Then the Seer may become a pure and uncontaminated Receptacle for the divine energy. To reflect the divine light clearly, the mirror should be unblemished, clean, and polished.

Needless to say, depending on their psychological state and the activity of their daimones, Seers may be better able to bear the God at some times than at others. This must be taken into account before attempting Desmos. In what may be a fragment from the Chaldean Oracles (fr. 211), a God complains,

The Recipient's wretched heart supports me not.

Furthermore, an inexperienced Seer may have trouble at first achieving an adequate receptive state, but with talented Seers this improves with practice. We say that they acquire the Hieratikę Dunamis (Hieratic Faculty).

The Desmos

The Desmos operation begins with the cleansing and purification of both the Caller and Receiver. They will take a ritual bath and dress in ceremonial attire: typically a white robe bound with a belt bearing the sumbola of the God to be invoked; they may wear also garlands and other divine sumbola as appropriate. Next, the Caller, Receiver, and ritual area are purified, typically with salt water and burning sulfur (Hólmę kai Theíon: Brine and Brimstone). The atmosphere may be prepared by Atmoí (Vapors), that is, incense appropriate to the divinity.

During the operation, the Caller may stand on kharaktęres (esoteric characters and figures) that are sumbola of the divinity.

In general, as in Telestikę, the more sumbola and sunthęmata that are used, the better will the Recipient be prepared for the arrival of the divinity. To help the Seer achieve a trance state, it's helpful to provide a point of focus, such as an oil lamp (traditional), a candle, or a kharaktęr or other divine sumbolon. The state we wish to achieve is called Theophoría (bearing a God), Enthousiasmós (having a God within, entheos), Epípnoia (inspired by a God).

There are various signs that the experienced Caller may use to tell if the Recipient has achieved a state of Theophoria. These include changes of voice and facial expression. Also, there may be unusual bodily movement or rigidity. Levitation has been reported! Often there is insensitivity to pain. Theophoria is often accompanied by luminous visions, which may be perceived by the Seer (called autoptic) or by the Theagôgos (called epoptic). In the latter case, the Caller may describe the visions to the Recipient, so that they may experience the Enthousiasmos more fully. Both may experience visions. Sometimes the Seer is seized completely by the God, in which case they will be unconscious of what transpires, and the Theagôgos will witness epoptic manifestations of the God; the Recipient may have no memory of the Theophoria. At other times the Seer will consciously experience the Enthousiasmos; they may feel their mind and body to be seized and bearing the God, or they may experience the God externally through autoptic visions. Also, the Dokheus may observe the lamp focus to transform from the ordinary "mortal light" to a numinous "strong immortal light."

The experienced Caller can tell from the luminous apparitions what sort of God or Daimôn has seized the Seer (some of the rules can be found in Iamblichus' De Mysteriis, Bk. II). This is important because some of the lower ranks of Daimones (which are governed more by emotion than by reason) do not respond honestly when asked their identity. In any case, you should never accept a divine spirit's statements uncritically nor abandon your intellectual and moral autonomy.

Generally, formless luminous apparitions are more reliable indicators of divine presence, since they are truer to a God's form than recognizable shapes (see Iamblichus, loc. cit.). Also, the Chaldean Oracles (fr. 148) state:

But when you see the very holy Shapeless Fire, which shines by leaps and bounds throughout the whole world's depths, attend the Fire's Voice....

In any case, an incorporeal Deity adopts a corporeal form for our benefit. As the Goddess explains in the Oracles (fr. 142),

... for you these bodies have been bound upon autoptic apparitions ...

The Eklusis

The operation is usually brought to a close when the Theagôgos perceives that the divinity has departed from the Recipient, but it may be terminated also if the Recipient or Theagôgos are becoming too tired to sustain the Theophoria. At this time, the Eklusis (Release) removes the burden of bearing the God (Theophoria) from the Katokhos (Held Down One).

The Theagôgos bids the divinity to depart (if necessary) and thanks them for their presence:

At last release the Lord; no more the mortal holds the God.

(Chaldean Oracles, dub. fr. 225). Again, in theurgy it is recognized that a God cannot be "banished." Rather, this dismissal begins the "detuning" of the Recipient's soul from the divine power and back to the material realm, thereby allowing the divine energy to dissipate.

Once the Recipient begins to return to normal consciousness, they should accelerate the process by turning away from the focal lamp and turning their attention to mundane matters. Focusing on their body (which is probably uncomfortable after the operation) is a good strategy. This process, which may happen accidentally if the Seer loses focus, is described in the Oracles (fr. 141):

The sluggish mortal, nodding here, is God’s Release.

That is, if the sluggish (matter-bound) Recipient "nods" or inclines towards the things here (of this world), it will result in the God's Release.

The Theagôgos may step off of the God's kharaktęres, if they were used, and extinguish the incense and focal lamp. These and other kharaktęres and sumbola of the God may be covered. Finally, the Theagôgos and Theatęs remove their ceremonial robes and the sumbola of the God. This ends the rite.

Note that the goal is not to sever all contact with the God, but simply to effect the Release (Eklusis) of the Held Down One (Katokhos) from divine control. The Theagôgos must be sensitive to any signs that the Release is not complete and take measures, if necessary, to restore the Katokhos to himself. This is, in brief, the operation of Desmos kai Eklusis.


As previously remarked, it is possible for the Caller and Recipient to be the same person, an operation that we may call Autodesmos, but the preceding description highlights some of the difficulties of this more advanced operation. First, since you are acting in both roles, you must be both active and passive at the same time: concentrating your mind on the invocations and other sumbola, while surrendering your body and soul to the divinity. In practice, the operation goes through stages, from more active invocation, to more passive contemplation of kharaktęres or divine logoi (sayings), and finally to surrender. Obviously, you cannot surrender completely, or you will not see the (necessarily autoptic) visions or here the revelations.

Finally there is the matter of Release. When you perceive that the God has departed or you have become too tired to continue, you must refocus your attention on the material realm, as in ordinary Eklusis. Remove your robe and leave the ritual area.

It's worth noting that there is little danger of a trained theurgist getting stuck in a trance. The mortal frame cannot sustain a divine spirit indefinitely; eventually it will fatigue, and you will fall asleep. This is not necessarily bad, for in this still-inspired state you are likely to have revelatory or prophetic dreams. In any case, it's important to know that when you awake there may be lingering effects of Enthousiasmos, and so it's still necessary to take definite measure to reground yourself in the material world. (Clap, stamp, dance, exercise, have sex, eat, etc.)

Recall ("Goal of Theurgic Ascent") that in theurgy a return to embodiment is an essential part of the process, for that is our role in the creation of the universe. Theurgy effects the Epistrophę (Turn Back) toward The One, and thus the full actualization of Divine Energeia.

Featured Posts