FOSFOROS INTERVIEW

Photo of Johannes Nefastos by sor Astraya, 2021

Fra Smaragd
September 2021

Smaragd: One can find little knowledge about the timeline of Fosforos from the internet. Also, the earlier editions are hard to find on the used book market, even though the edition being published in the near future is already the sixth Finnish edition. When did the text get its first impulse, and when was it published for the first time?
Nefastos: Fosforos is composed of six separate parts, which I wrote around the turn of the millennium. Its first text, Polyharmonia, discussed – and discusses – the philosophy of magic and metaphysics of the doctrine of unity. I vividly remember how I photocopied paper booklets of the text and distributed them to different people I knew. I think it was considered quite baffling – I received absolutely no feedback from anyone! When I had all six parts, I cut and glued the papers to bundles that I brought to a bookbinder and arranged the first ten copies. This was 2002, and the following year Ixaxaar made its first publication of Fosforos.

Smaragd: In what kind of situation was the book born, and to what kind of needs on the field of spiritual striving did it seek to give an answer?
Nefastos: A wonderful but vast question. Briefly said, the writing of Fosforos was for me the time when I was extremely wrestling to find faith in any kind of goodness. This forms perhaps quite an odd contrast with the fact that my experience concerning the existence of spirituality has never gone through any sort of crisis or doubt: the reality of the superphysical is, for me, a more sure thing than my being present here as a physical human being.

Smaragd: What made you an author by profession? Had you come to see the field of occultism in the broader sense, experiencing a kind of intermedial peak in the climbing of the world mountain – reaching a vista of which you felt you had something to say? Or was it, more simply, answering the burning need to express?
Nefastos: My writing has always been an investigation made for myself and the immediate results of such an investigation. When something is made fully clear for oneself, it is no longer in the investigating center of the mind’s dynamics, and at that point, it would be a stale subject. Creative writing demands personal relation to its topic.

Smaragd: What kind of literary and other sources have you felt the most important in reaching the above-mentioned wider perspective? Or is the naming of the outer, non-esoteric sources misleading and more like reflective surfaces for the force, the adversary, or spirit that springs from the inner world?
Nefastos: Often it is, but it would be cowardice to avoid the question with such an excuse. Every good writing somehow surpasses the text against which it was built; otherwise, it is pointless. The most important positive sources were Blavatsky and the background of classic Russian literature, most of all Dostoevsky’s idea of the relation between faith and spiritual experience. After those come gnostic gospels, C.G. Jung, and what I had been able to get to my hands on regarding Neoplatonic, alchemical, and Renaissance magic literature; and so on. I have always felt it important to help the reader onwards with open intertextuality, wherein poetic hue is maintained: thus, the simplest method is to start reading texts from where I have chosen references and chapter mottos. Such are not sources but context.

Smaragd: The books of the volume are partially titled in Latin. Do you think that Latin is something of a gateway to the different kinds of poetic dimensions from the midst of all the metaphysics, occult ethics and philosophy? I do not mean that the titles would feel disconnected; quite the contrary. It would seem that they give something like a focal point through which the text finds a point of comparison. In such a case, what is the poetic field Latin exists in? Do you think it would correspond to some distinct and nameable plane of our reality for which occultism gives lingual tools?
Nefastos: Latin, Hebrew, and Sanskrit seem, to me, the most fundamental magical languages of our Occidental culture. With the help of these languages, one is able to manufacture amulet-like aggregates, into which is summed and from which open a multitude of things. The names of the parts of Fosforos are such amulets: they refer to a different kind of cognitive process than their direct translations. I would rather not name the corresponding planes of the poesy of languages, for these kinds of correspondences depend on the point of approach and will change according to it. Not in a confused or relative way, but in a way so rich in nuances that it would require much time and space to consider them.

Smaragd: How did your relation to your surroundings, like the possible involvement in occult groups, influence the process of creation of the text that was planned for publication?
Nefastos: To the writing process, it had almost no impact: I wrote Fosforos in quite a seclusion. Only after the first publication, and precisely because of how I observed people reading it, did I start to make more notes about writing for some kind of an audience, one that might not necessarily share any of my own soul’s basis. One can see this in the footnotes of Fosforos, which I added to the later editions [including the English editions] to open how the text should be interpreted. I feel that the author is definitely responsible for the book’s equivocal parts. It is naturally impossible to unlock the meaning of everything with words, no matter how much is written, but it is not impossible to close the doors from critically mistaken and dangerous interpretations.

Smaragd: How do you see Fosforos placing itself into our slightly-changed world compared to the time when the text was originally born?
Nefastos: In my opinion, it has prognosticated the change of the world well enough. I remember well in what kind of mental state I wrote. I felt that I had to write in haste, and in case I would fail to write these things quickly enough at that exact time, and if the book were not preserved at least in some copies, I would not have been able to take care of an important work given to me. This feeling was terribly stressful, and I am extremely glad that things turned out the way they did.

Smaragd: The six books of Fosforos were originally published as separate parts. Was it always clear that these books were going to be parts under one common title?
Nefastos: No. I had written half of these separate books before I realized the whole they were making up. The last three texts (Necrosophia, Pentagrammaton and Cista Mystica) are therefore more like supplemental parts, and their style is lighter and more explanatory.

Smaragd: You have also written a book called Saatanan seitsemät kasvot [“The Seven Faces of Satan“], where you discuss the different aspects of Satan in a clearer manner. Do you think that the character of Satan is somehow hued by the dichotomic lens of the problem of evil in Fosforos? Or does Fosforos attempt to see the being of Satan beyond those different aspects?
Nefastos: The Seven Faces of Satan was possible to write from the basis given in Fosforos. This being or name is so charged that preceding the more challenging and difficult discussion in Fosforos with the more neutral basis of the Seven Faces essays would not have been the best possible approach.

Smaragd: Satan seems to be an entity through which one can figure out the shifting of deities in different pantheons. By shifting, I mean the effect by which the different faces of one entity seem to create whole lineages of gods into mythologies; of which the different ends of these lineages might be traced seemingly very far from each other if one could find a connecting meaning at all without the discovery of the entity behind the lineage. Let’s think of, for example, the ancient Greek pantheons with the entangled mess of family lines it often appears as to modern people. In contemporary Western culture, we could observe the shift or gradient of deities by first seeing Satan worship and the Left Hand Path as it is seen traditionally: as a worship of the Goddess – the feminine aspect of the original undivided androgynous deity. But then again, Satan also has quite clear roots in masculine divinities, as we might know from the monotheistic Judeo-Christian tradition, the latter of which the modern world sees largely a masculine entity in itself. From these examples, we might figure out how different pagan traditions from the Hellenic field, the Fennoscandian pantheistic religions, and witchcraft might be close to this religiosity that focuses more on the polytheism of the Goddess, whereas the masculine voice of monotheism seems to have been trying to realize a more comprehensive entity by renouncing polytheism. When writing Fosforos, did you feel that Satan could be the one who is able to join these two orientations in a meaningful and more expansive way in our culture? How widely can such a radical cultural shift be given as the center point of humanity’s striving, in Finland or even globally? As an entity, Satan would seem to be the one making such work possible, or so Fosforos appears to imply. How ready is humankind to commit to such a striving? Does it demand so much that such occultism could be said to be only for the very few, or would this character of Satan – as given in the book – also be able to create such a shell or mask that it could become an exoteric instrument for the masses, still carrying forth some seed to the obscure future of humankind?
Nefastos: Yes, personally, I see that there is still one essence behind all these lineages. But considering the latter part of your question, I don’t think that people who take the cultural change onwards would have to experience it like so. Let’s compare this to an institution with an exceptionally enlightened leader who knows the institution’s infrastructure through and through. Such a leader penetrates that system in a way that makes it trivial whether they themself are seen or unseen in that system. Its employees can work under different group leaders and even in seemingly opposite kinds of jobs, and this diversity supports that one inner logic, which is inspired, led and indirectly upheld by the one penetrating essence, the unseen leader. Corruption is always possible in the outer fringes of working, but that is not a disaster for the Work itself. One of the subtleties of the occult process is that it never completely leaves its detritus and troublesome substance but continues working with its crusts by whatever means are possible at the time, as long as it is necessary.

Smaragd: In the book, you discuss the philosophy of occultism extensively, like an attempt to reveal to a persistent reader a holistic and concise presentation about the foundation upon which occultism and, thus, also magic, is built. But in addition to this, in the sixth book, you present practical formulas for magical working. Therefore, the book seems like a rare combination of incredibly vast occult presentations from the occult philosophy to the hands-on grimoire tradition. In grimoires, one usually comes to A) straight to spell formulas or B) broader presentations preparing the reader for the formulas by structures of associations á la Three Books of Agrippa – of which one part, for example, focuses on correspondences between creatures and celestial powers, like making support sticks between universal manifestations and their meanings. Here we might see how in my example A the practitioner is supposed to take the ready formulas to use and trust to their power without observing the deeper, hidden meanings and laws thus utilized. In example B, it seems that a step has been taken toward the freer practice by creating structural meanings between manifestations and inner forces. Could Fosforos be seen as a link in this grimoire tradition, opening wide the philosophy of occultism in the place of the most challenging questions of humanity, thus opening wider also the level of practice? By this level, I mean the field of divine responsibility of human beings, met by an occultist who wakes to one’s higher stature. The greedy approach to magic tends to use grimoires to selfish ends. In such an approach, one easily drifts to sacrificing something that the user of formulas is not likely to understand, thus blinding oneself by the drapes of magic instead of becoming able to pass through these drapes into the deepest cores of being and beyond to that truly attained selfhood; one which could be seen as the summit of Satanism. What do the contents of Fosforos tell us about our age, and perhaps of the way a hermetic messenger’s whispered word has been construed in the first decades of this millennium?
Nefastos: I would like to say that it tells of the possibility of newer occultism to be experienced more holistically, in a way where practice and metaphysics are no longer separated. But in reality, our contemporary time seems to be rather more separating than any time in the past. This is also seen in the grimoire tradition, which too often is like a parody of itself. But the rising interest in magic is still a positive part of the renaissance of esotericism, and thus one of those keys with which our experience of sacredness – or meaningfulness – can be opened again. 

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