Notes on the Body of Peers, a contemporary group of Hermetic practitioners
This article traces the presence of an underground cell of practitioners dedicated to advancing the hermetic arts from the late 60s until recent times and known as the Body of Peers (Corpo dei Pari). Led by Giammaria,1 the group made valuable contributions to the Hermetic arts, not only for their highly sought after opus of books, articles, paintings, sculptures and Tarot decks,2 but also for the organizational paradigm underlying the group which favors non-hierarchical and individualistic relationships among members similar to contemporary modes of social structures known as the Hive mind.3 The Hive Mind paradigm prevails in artistic communities and even in start-up organizations (Hermes is after all the patron of commerce) where an experiential and experimental modus operandi of innovation, creativity, agility, and knowledge transfer is valued. The Body of Peers unique blend of tradition and individual self-discovery is suited to serve as a prototype for future groups dedicated to the study and practice of the Hermetic tradition as well as to solitary psychonauts exploring the frontiers of consciousness.
“AK Z UR is a name of initiation (presumably of Assyrian-Chaldean derivation) manifested from an “ancient resonance” in a subtle state of perception beyond the dimension of that which is commonly referred to as “real”; this name can be understood in terms of an inner archeology or as the manifestation of a retrospective process along the lines of “an excavation of the inner self”.
Introduction to The Book of Ak Z UR
NISI NOBIS SOLIS SCRIPSIMUS (We write solely for ourselves) is a quote attributed to the English Renaissance alchemist George Ripley and serves, appropriately enough, as the leitmotif that informs a curious collection of writings attributed to a group of seekers based on the Northern Italian port of Genova and dedicated to the research and practice of Alchemical-Hermeticism.4 The group, known as the Body of Peers (Corpo dei Pari) was founded in the late 1960s by an erudite Artifex named Giammaria and continues, in one form or the other, up to present times.
“…. and not only from a literary perspective does the publication of “The Hermetic Acts of the Body of Peers” break ground with their interpretations of the multiple forms of hermeticism, but also from an historical perspective by revealing the occult works of an underground laboratory dedicated to Initiatic practices within the city of Genova.”
This slender volume is neatly organized into bite-sized sections consisting of manifestos, statutes, archival documents, and rituals. The section allotted to rituals is heavily truncated with omissions, suggesting much of the material associated with work conducted on an Eonic plain has not been made available for public consumption. The published material is laden with mythogenic sections including excerpts from reserved texts, such as the Corpus Philosophicum Totius Magiae of Giuliano Kremmerz, prophesies recovered from a 18th-century Argentinian monastery that foretells the fate of the West, and a wide selection of visions, dreams, mnemonic tables, and carmenic verses.5
To start with, an explanation is due with respect to the meaning of “Body” and why it was named such. “Body” since no other word better expresses the relationship between the individual members (PEERS) and the structure of the group (in a synergistic sense). “Body” can also be understood as a holistic group of individuals united by similar goals, a circle of members that can expand or contract, increase or decrease, while maintaining a formal unity in spite of their considerable differences. In this respect, it should be noted that members of the Body of Peers were limited in number, never surpassing, at any given time, a dozen individuals.
“In accordance with practices passed down from the Alchemical-Hermetic tradition:6 members of the “Body” are referred to as “Peers”, because they are free to apply their research to whatever field they choose, freedom to follow a practice congenial to their nature and based solely on their own choice, internalizing the teachings through an art and a means congruent to their abilities.”
In Doctrinal terms:
There is only one Path (with a capital P)
With two stages: Wet and Dry
And three systems: Nigredo, Albedo, and Rubedo
There are two means or methods to enter the Path, incorrectly referred to as the wet path and the dry path and otherwise known as the short art and the long art; rather they are better defined in terms of “Humors” and “Will”. Seven are the “ways” along the Path that correspond to the seven forms of manifested Intelligence.
Individually, the Peers are responsible for selecting a type and method of the art to practice. The same rituals are made available to all those with a propensity for following a ceremonial practice, that is a “path of humors” or other methods for those with a strong inclination towards following a “path of will”.
Therefore a system based on grades or hierarchy was never in place, except the grades and hierarchies associated with administrative duties, which are not connected with initiation, and in perfect alignment with the alchemical tradition does not follow a “common” or “collective” practice, rather is oriented more towards individual operators and solitary experimenters. For this reason, the Body was never reduced to an “Order” (in a masonic sense).
Also viewed from this context are the sections outlined in the “Pragmatic” which assign the role of a “Regent” and associated administrative tasks in strictly exoteric terms. References to an “italic race” or to “maintaining the utmost secrecy”, should be taken “Cum Grano Salis“. Certain forms of ritual practice developed within the laboratory should be understood as a means to “awaken” dormant constitutions or to “trigger” self-awareness among individuals displaying mystical tendencies.
Similarly, a particularly intense period of activity by the Peers, coincided with the posting of “Manifestos” on the walls around Genova and environs, drawing inspiration from the original Rosicrucians. This period was subsequently prorogued for another four years, by those who held the regency exclusively for their personal title, and which allowed for a greater decantation of “essences” than what was extracted from the preceding period.
In a quadrennial appendix, direct contact among Peers ceased or were maintained outside of any regular organizational structure. The qualification of “Peer” extends to anyone whose work was inspired by the doctrines of the Body of Peers. The most significant texts include – a priori – “The Book of Ak Z UR” and – a posteriori – the “Tables“.7 However, it should be noted that the documents published in these volumes refer exclusively to the septennial cycle, i.e. when the “Body” worked “sub facie humana” and not to the Eonic-idealist work practiced in more recent times. During this cycle, the principal doctrines were revealed in the form of “Tables” (parables, verses, and diagrams) included in the book “Compendium of Hermetics”, which has yet to be published in an exhaustive edition.8
“Of particular note are the means by which teachings were communicated to the Peers at different times and in different versions containing hidden errors and discordant passages (not easily detected). These teachings were directed towards re-orientating mystical types to hinder their blind acceptance, in a pedestrian sense, of an ISPE DIXIT. Rather through direct experience were the truth claims of hermetic propositions validated.9 Therefore imprecise formulas were purposely assigned during the laboratory work to allow the experimenter the opportunity to detect inaccuracies and discover hidden truths or at least to “infer” their plausibility, beyond that which is blindly accepted or mechanically internalized.10 This type of practice corresponds to the principle of a hermetic “ruse”, typical of a certain type of teaching that informs the higher expressions of the self.11 Relationships planted and cultivated among the “Peers” were inspired by the criterion that “there are no exalted Masters”; only the Principle (Hermes) is supernal and universal; whereas the tendency to exalt Masters is an illusion on the Path”. Therefore the term “exalted Master” acquires a different meaning and serves as a trope (deviation) and should be referred to and assumed as such.”12
A testimony of the work produced by the BODY OF PEERS during their septennial cycle includes the posting of “Manifestos” on the walls around the city of Genova and environs. They were referenced by a Genovese newspaper through the pen of a beguiled columnist, who identified the perpetrators as belonging to a vague mystical sect … and nothing more! The article states: “With the publication of (The Hermetic) Acts, it can be rightly said the auspicious day has arrived whereby the mystery shall be revealed.” The columnist further quotes one of the Carmens:
CARMEN: seven from twelve / one into four.
Could be paired with the old Genovese saying “three for eight and one frank leaves twenty” and instead refers to the first “verse” – let’s call it that, of a strange poem that a private citizen has printed and plastered in recent days on the walls around Genova and the surrounding Riviera. Estimates on the number of Manifestos posted are said to be less than a hundred, however, they have aroused such curiosity that you would believe they were a thousand or ten thousand, as ascertained by the police and local officers, who have begun an investigation.
The reason for all of this interest is very simple: it’s not clear what the writings mean. To say the poems are hermetic is to say very little as the reader will quickly discern. The preface to one of the Carmens reads:
“Vanished, dispersed and abandoned – they know not the path of the consecrated! Having attained the investiture, no longer mystics they have become Adepts, Initiates of the Teachings, having de-cloaked their Masks to reveal an inner Face, a Sun, projecting light through the infinite reflections of the cosmic mirror.”
It is obvious that some form of inspirational, vaguely religious, or mystical component is associated with the posters. When asked, the owner of the print shop that produced the posters, said a certain gentleman of age provided a false address and mentioned his name was Roncallo. He stated the text’s concern a new philosophical movement … “
(from the newspaper “IL LAVORO” 20 January 1967)
To conclude in the words of the “Regent”:
“There were members of the “Body of Peers” who came and left soon after, frightened by their first experiences, those who became disappointed and fled when they didn’t find the “empty idols” they were searching for; or those who failed to find a useful outlet for their practice. Then there were those who started as novices or as mystical types and finished as adepts. Just desserts to the one and to the other, to those who’ve failed and those who’ve continued along the Path and carry forth the practices until this day.”13
Excerpts from THE HERMETIC ACTS OF THE BODY OF PEERS
* PROCLAMATION. We consorts of the ROYAL ART, both visible and invisible, stake ground in this City for those who carry forth the TEACHINGS and realize the WORK, the Return of Hermes to the City of Janus, at the end of the Saturnalia A.D.V.
* PROPHECY of MASTER ODER-BNE-ORMZ: Two Crosses face each other from across the banks of the Tiber, one appears to the other like the spectre of an Oasis in the midst of a desert, in appearance they seem hostile, but in reality are secretly aligned. A bloody war will ensue that eclipses the Moon and where great acts of revenge will be exacted…
INTERPRETATION by MORKOHEKDAPH on the meaning of this prophecy and, in general, of all “prophecies”… as representations of the initiate’s solar body, the interpretation of dreams or inspired visions do not, in of themselves, take into account the perspective of simultaneous events occurring within optical laws on the astral plane, such as those depicted in (abstract) paintings – rather through the necessity of adaptation, seen events (visions) are arranged in an order, which is not always logical or does not historically correspond with their effective manifestation … Furthermore, the word’s essence (numen) is formed by syllables often truncated, that when reunited refers in a logical sense to the context, and in some cases, the syntactic order can spell out the letters of the divined object.
…. the Centaur symbolizes Turin (Taurus) ……and the Ship Genova! …. the Moon … possibly refers to the waxing Crescent Moon in Europe (Turkey) or of the Middle East and North Africa…..there will form (throughout Europe) groups of resistance against the foreign invasion. Once the danger ceases, freedom will be restored …
This prophecy, which present times bear witness to its actualization, was divulged by Giuliano Kremmerz in 1926, from documents dating back to 1840 and first received from the Convent of San Francisco in Salta, Argentina, circa 1890.
- Giammaria Gonnella, (in art: Giammaria, Ak Z UR, GMG, etc) is a modern Renaissance man, lawyer, writer, painter, archer, martial artist, skydiver, etc. and renowned for his great humanist and juridical culture. A lifelong exponent of alchemy, initially studying under the magus Marco Daffi, a disciple of Giuliano Kremmerz, deciphering the complex symbolism of alchemy and pursuing a synthesis between different western and oriental traditions, to develop the nucleus of a spiritual path suitable for modern times.
- The Tarot According to the Isis Banquet and the I Ching, Artist Auri Campolonghi Gonella created a deck of Tarot cards inspired by Marco Daffi’s writings on the Tarot and which correlates the symbolism depicted in the Bembine Table of the goddess Isis in various stages of initiation. The Bembine Table or Mensa Isiaca is a tablet probably of late Roman origin that was acquired by Cardinal Bembo in the late Renaissance and passed through various courts of Italian nobility and resides now at the Museum of Turin.
- In Vino Veritas, It should be pointed out that members, rather than gravitating as planets do towards a sun, are like comets, some may be closer and others further away, when it comes to setting a course that doesn’t slavishly follow a received way…Therefore the individual members are not subjected to group work and even less is group work subjected to any individual member.
- Hermetic forma mentis is rooted in a vision of life (weltanschauung) that sees every single thing connected with every other thing by virtue of the original One (Principle). As the well-known phrase from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes suggests “As it is above, so it is below” there is an emanational continuity linking the Macrocosm with the Microcosm through multiple dimensions of reality, including the causal, astral and hiliiac planes. To draw from a broader range of references, the Hermetic practitioner privileges alternative modes of cognition such as thought-by -images, intuition, mnemonics, and dream states to develop an epistemological system, an Hermetica Ratio that derives the plurality of phenomena (vestiges) back to their archetypal origins (numen).
- The Hermetic Acts of the Body of Peers (Dagli Atti Del Corpo Dei Pari) Edizioni Alkaest, 1978 Genova.
- Alchemy this unknown, Alchemical-Hermeticism is the preferred term used by the Peers. Alchemy is a branch of hermeticism which includes magic, astrology, cabbla, and divination among others. Giammaria defines alchemy as the transposition of consciousness from the historically-bound personalized individual to the archetypal transpersonalized individual.
- The Book of Ak Z Ur … represents a “summation” of Hermeticism, an organic treatise dressed in contemporary clothes to accentuate even further its universal content. In the Book are fixed the images of the WORLD, MAN and the GREAT WORK, under categories of tables, designed as mandalas: and clearly formulated into operational reference points. Therefore, this book may be known by a reader to the extent that the content is experienced and assimilated. In this sense, the tables from the Book of Ak Z Ur can act as agents in the integrative process, for Hermes’ Star shines equally in the rational sphere – and if rightly practiced, can magically evoke a hermetic force of thinking, signifying and acting.”
- Alchemy According to Giammaria by Hermelinda, The alchemical laboratory is located within the operator; All the representations and symbols are related to different states and realities of the Work (sulfur = spirit, mercury = soul, salt = body)
- Athanor is the man himself, while “metals” represent the individual psycho-physiological complexes. Fire is the psychic charge used in the Work, the awareness. The “dense” lead represents one’s own individuality, formed by the complexing of psychic fields; The “Subtle is constituted” by the Self, the Numen, the Deus Absconditus and is disaggregated from the historical self, the point of contact between identification of the personal and the “individuating transpersonal” self. By this Lead will be transformed into Gold, that is, the individuation of the historical-bound individual will merge with the archetypal conscience of the Principle. The fundamental concept, both of the Work and of Life itself, is precisely that of the Principle of things, which is a unified Field placed beyond Time-Space, beyond any structure, beyond the energy/matter dualism. This is the universal mind, God, Great Spirit, Abstract, Great Magical Agent, indefinable, unknowable. It is the Void that manifests the Universe, with universal laws, and is the substance of all structures. It is in the being of humans that the Principle expresses itself in its fullness, becoming intelligent in the form of consciousness.
- Alchemy According to Giammaria by Hermelinda, Ordinary man does not realize the potentiality of the universal mind, if not in minimal part, by his consciousness which is tied to his historical self. As his consciousness begins to develop, gradually becoming aware of the interconnection of the relationships of the universe. According to the alchemical perspective, the World is depicted as an antithesis between cosmos and chaos, in contrast between” fixed “and” mobile.” The “positive” and the “negative”, a background where the existential theme of the Technique, a mode of operation that requires the intense living of the reality of the Quotidian being “in the world” and “of the world” for as long as it can be enough. There are several “exercises”, in other words, operating moments in everyday life, performed in full sacredness, though not true rituals – with this there is a difference between magic and alchemy – where “laboratory work”, in the sense of day-to-day activities, is lived with complete integrity.
- Alchemy According to Giammaria by Hermelinda, In this perspective, Alchemy is not to be regarded as a mystical practice, but rather as an initiatory technique through which to live life in a continuous operation. Your life will be entirely designed in this manner, and the constant desire for awakening will fuel the transformative interior fire. The transformation will take place thanks to the constant filtering of the imperturbable and immobile observer that the operator has been able to construct in his own interior. The realization of the Great Work cannot fail to reach down through the deeper forces of the unconscious, which will gradually integrate to acquire consciousness. There will be a progressive separation, a “solve”, to be exercised with great humility, patience, and perseverance, of the observer from the observed contents. All psychic complexes, emotions, instincts, desires are energies created through repression, which channels these energies into the depths of the unconscious, where they continue to proliferate, destined to re-emerge sooner or later, with often devastating forms of psychic-physical outbursts. The secret of the Work is to transform these energies through the purifying fire of observation, into the “solve” and “coagulum”, “action” and “reaction”, “day” and “night” operations.
- Alchemy According to Giammaria by Hermelinda, There will awaken an inner Sun to affect a dis-identification of psychic contents, by means of constant conscious observation that “distills” the contents until they become transparent. “Making the volatile fixed” means to solidify and stabilize the conscious experience of Life within the parameters of day-to-day self-hood (individuality). A possible interpretation of the symbol of the cross could be by a horizontal line representing the flow of material life bound through the space-time paradigm, and by the vertical line representing the unconditioned and infinite universal life. Giammaria indicates three important exercises to “de-realize” from time and space, by breaking habitual engagements with existential situations. The only reality that counts at this point is to adjust the frame (the relationship of the Self), in the background of an anonymous, de-personalized, and timeless consciousness.
- Alchemy According to Giammaria by Hermelinda, The Great Hypothesis of Alchemy is, therefore, already in existence with the centering and identification of the self with its Principle, on a journey that the operator has to travel to achieve the conscience of the One in All and All in One. Because everything is in Us: the Eternal corresponds with the consciousness that lies unexplored in the depths of every human being. All that is termed “gods” and “angels” correspond to deep forces that reside in one’s own interiority. It is a full-fledged upheaval that will free the operator from being subjected to the chaos of the elements. one becomes One with one’s Life.
- Alchemical Hermetism by G.M.G, Each human being (whether man or woman) is a physical and temporal individuation that takes form from the unified energy field that is the Principle (universal) of any manifestation. Each being is, therefore, an episode that in its historical and biographical form appears only as separate from “others” (like a drop of water from other drops in the sea). Therefore, a human being is a person (mask) within a unique, indefinable and indescribable source that is beyond any terminological definition (which is true of matter-spirit, physical-psyche, etc.). However, the individual “believes” he is individually separate from “others” and from the Principle which he is basically born from and which he refers to as “I”, “you”, “them”, “us”, unaware that “others” are, like him, a drop of water in the sea. If instead of identifying with his mask (person), his physical and temporal self, the consciousness of the human being expanded to the awareness of “what is beyond his biographical boundaries”, can magically live life by perceiving the body as the one body of the universe that participates within the dream of the One Mind in the Personal Mind …
Hermetic Library of the Body of Peers
- Giuliano Kremmerz and the FR+TM+Myriam (Giuliano Kremmerz e la Fr+ TM+ di Myriam)
- The Brotherhood of Myriam Historical Records (Le carte storiche della Fratellanza di Myriam)
- Corpus Philosophicum totius magiae (Total Magical Philosophical Work)
- Hermetic alchemy, therapy and erotica (Alchimia Ermetica terapica ed erotica)
- Thesaurus Medicinae Dei – The Rite of Hamzur – The Hermetic Book of the Dead (Thesaurus Medicinae Dei – Il Rito di Hamzur – Il Libro Ermetico dei Morti)
- The Avatars (Gli Avatars)
- Introduction to Mantics (Introduzione alle mantiche)
- The Tarot according to the Isis Banquet and the I Ching (Il Tarocco secondo la Mensa Isiaca e l’I King)
- The Mirror of virgins (Lo specchio delle vergini)
- Solvet et Coagula (Dissolve and Coagulate)
- Dissertations (Dissertamina)
- The Book of changes – I-Ching (Il Libro dei Mutamenti – I-King)
- Philosophical letters (Epistolario filosofico)
- Confidential letters (Epistolario confidenziale)
- Alchemical Hermeticism (Ermetismo alchimico)
* Marco Daffi and his work (Marco Daffi e la sua opera)
· Hermetic Compendium (Compendio di Ermetica)
· The Book of Ak Z Ur (Il Libro di Ak Z Ur)
- Synoptic Tables (Tavole Sinottiche)· Excerpts (Gli Excerpta)• Among us gods (Inter nos Dii)· Alchemy this unknown * (L’Alchimia questa sconosciuta) *· Alchemy Magna Ars (Alchemy the great art)· The Hermetic Synthesis (La Sinossi ermetica)· Alchemical Hermetic Dictionary ** (Dizionario ermetico alchimico)· Hermetic Paradoxes (Paradossi di Ermetica)· Alchemical Fluids (Succhi alchimici)· Alchemical Fluids – Other Version (Succhi alchimici – altra versione)· From the Hermetic Tribunal (Dalla tribuna di Ermete)· Portiuncula Hermetica (hermetic chapel)· Script Dicta et Dicenda (Written and Said)· War Stories (Inventario di guerra)· Notes on Paranormal phenomena (Sui fenomeni paranormali)
- Ad usum (In Use)· Correspondence inLetters (ex epistulis) (Da l’epistolario ex epistulis))· Ex epistulis (second part) (Letters)· Sermones ad vivos (Conversations with the living)
- To Be Continued (Continua)
Edited by GIAMMARIA
· Introduction to a separate reality (Avviamento a una realta separata)
· The Egyptian tarot (Il Tarocco egizio)
· From the Acts of the Body (Da gli Atti del Corpo dei Pari)
· Sub secretis (In Secret)
· Collect (Collecta)
· Tables of the Mute Book (Ordinazione delle Tavole del Mutus Liber)
· Ritual of the Body of the Peers (Riti del Corpo dei Pari)
· Mensa Isiaca (Isiac Table by A. Kirchner)
· Arbor mercurialis (mercurial tree)
· Kabbalistic stories (Novelle cabalistiche)
· The Crow cries twice (Il corvo gracchio due volte)
· The Gift of the Lion (Il dono dell’Alieno)
· Glossary to AK Z UR (Glosse al Libro di AK Z ?UR)
• Witches and Sorcerers (streghe e stregoni)
· Stroking the fire (see Egyptian Tarot) (Enarrando enarrando)
· Tables of Inter nos Dii (Tabulae di Inter nos Dii)
· Pictoral Rooms (see Hermetic Synopsis) (Stanze pittoriche)
* Tabulae pictae (The pictures)
· Firmamentum (The Firmament)
· Triumphs of the Egyptian Tarot (Trionfi del Tarocco Egizio)
· 24 Amerindian Drawings (24 Figure amerinde)
· In Vino Veritas (Where there is wine there is truth)
- Celestial Agriculture – Knowledge and Power in Alchemy
- The Secret Fire of the alchemists (Il fuoco segreto degli alchimisti)
- The Elxir of Long Life. Manual for an Alchemy of Health (L’elisir di lunga vita. Manuale di salute alchemica)
N.B. The books written by Marco Daffi, Giammaria and Auri are all not for profit and have been published without receiving any form of monetary compensation.
Books marked with an * have received the following recognitions:
* Awarded by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage
** Nomination by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage