“Ether was once discovered by conventional science and then it was foolishly dropped. But for us it is as real as electricity and we use it in therapy. The notion of etheric energy is in many ways similar to Bergson’s elan vital, to Reich’s orgone energy, to Mesmer’s animal magnetism, and to the Hindu concept of prana.” – The Magus of Strovolos, Homage to the Sun
It wasn’t easy to read The Magus of Strovolos (1985) and not be struck by an authentic vibe, or at least the niggling conviction that much of what Stylianos Atteshlis (aka Daskalos, meaning ‘teacher’ in Greek) says is indeed true. Incidentally I shall confess that the designated title of ‘Magus’ threw me. The word itself alludes to and recalls a practitioner of the esoteric arts and sciences who is able to bend Nature to his will, or to force Nature into doing his mischievous bidding. In reading the introductory paragraphs my mind was instantly permeated by fantastical images of a Renaissance wizard decked in scintillating white robes, gesticulating wildly as he chanted hermetic prayers in Latin and ancient Greek for the purpose of evoking planetary daemons and entities. I also expected a blatant and unapologetic display of paranormal phenomena. But as I read on an unprecedented, different image evolved–one of a tall, mind-mannered and humble civil servant who shunned fame as a trap in one’s spiritual path and expressed a heartfelt, indelible desire for anonymity.
They say first impressions last, and if first impressions are anything to go by then it seemed as though this man was worth all his wordy weight in spiritual gold. I ploughed deeper into the rabbit hole, a full-fledged weltanschauung that he and his faithful students seemed to comprehend and commune with as if it were second nature. At times it’s difficult to discern whether Daskalos is talking figuratively or literally, and whether he is being veraciously serious or outrageously flippant. Most conventional scientific hardliners would find his metaphysical stance hard to swallow, particularly when it comes to telepathic impressions about alien super intelligences who stand vigilant over Planet Earth and anecdotal narratives concerning the conscious deflection of NASA’s plummeting Skylab away from residential zones. Even the most open-minded individual would question the validity of such assertions, and I was no exception. But the book is not without its saving grace. Indeed, the subject’s visceral intelligence and his aptitude to rhapsodize and pontificate unequivocal statements about the mechanics of the universe makes us wonder; is Daskalos just a delusional eccentric or does he perceive intangible aspects that we don’t? Whatever the case, what is certain is that he’s one of the greatest mystics and esoteric teachers of the last century. In actual fact, I would go so far as to claim that he is tantamount of the magnanimity and brilliance of Paracelsus (1493-1541), Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), Jacob Boehme (1575-1624), Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925), and George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866-1949).
What any layperson probably wants to know is what is it like to be Daskalos? What is an ordinary day in the life of Daskalos actually like? The anthropologist Kyriacos Markides, author of The Magus of Strovolos, definitely doesn’t waste much time in expunging these customary festivities. For starters we see that Daskalos likes to spend some of his time in the Stoa, a small room at the back end of his courtyard in Nicosia in Cyprus where he tutors his disciples in karmic laws, reincarnation, and the miraculous healing powers of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes he’ll receive an unscheduled visit from a terminally or chronically ill patient who has deserted all hope in traditional medicine and has begun to entertain the possibility of supernatural intervention. It’s worth noting that the Daskalos’s frequent successes in somatic health and psychotherapy echoed throughout the island just enough to attract the jealousy, enmity, and derision of both medical practitioners and Greek Orthodox bishops. In the eye of these spiritual snowstorms he would retire to the Sanctum in order to meditate and offer prayers to God, the Holy Virgin, and the Holy Spirit. The evenings would call for a pastime of a different kind–he and his invisible helpers, usually faithful students of his esoteric circle, The Researchers of Truth, would unite in a solemn pledge to help humanity. They would do this by embarking upon out-of-body travel or exomatosis, and concurrently direct positive elementals to the depressed, the suicidal, the sick, the poor, and anybody in need of psychological and moral aid. In instances where a particular individual had become possessed by a departed human or demon, he would conduct a magical ritual, an exorcism, to expel the negative influence from his or her consciousness. The ritual would always accord with the individual’s religious and spiritual leanings, increasing its efficacy. If that’s not enough he also offered spiritual counselling to the terminally ill; communed with friends halfway around the world through astral travel and telepathy; and showered his plants and animals with loving verbal sentiments so that their natural growth cycles might be amplified. Whatever Daskalos was upto, it was always different–at least different from anything your conventional civilian of the developed West might do over the Labour Day weekend.
Without a doubt the greatest mystery surrounding Daskalos is his utilitarian talent in precipitating the healing of wounds, physical disfigurements and disturbances, maladies, and what not. He enacts feats that the greatest physicians, physiotherapists, osteopaths, and neurosurgeons cannot. What, then, might be implicitly understood by this miraculous phenomenon is that Daskalos does indeed have visceral access to invisible realms or worlds beyond our own, or at least a more complete understanding of the universe than the prevailing scientific consensus does. The initial taste comes in the first chapter, entitled, ‘The Magus of Strovolos,’ where Kyriacos C. Markides describes an incident involving a rustic man suffering from a spinal entropy that was acquired during the anti-colonial underground war of the 1950s. Thrown into this heart-centre of introspection, we, the audience, learn that Daskalos has successfully alleviated the man of his debilitating condition. For the cured man Daskalos seems an Orthodox saint, but for Daskalos himself this is merely the work that he must do. Just as he himself reiterates, it is in important altruistic notion for which there are no special kudos, accolades, gifts, or monetary gain. This is how we know that he is an authentic spiritual healer. True spiritual healers are humble, an overarching trait of Daskalos himself. During this inductive expose Daskalos swiftly corrects any misperceptions and myths that might flower in the minds of witnesses by specifying that he isn’t the catalyst of the ‘miracles’ in question; rather, his physical body acts as a interceding conduit through which the supernatural agency of Holy Spirit operates. The possibility of a miraculous cure rests entirely upon the Will of the Holy Spirit, not Daskalos.
A much more intimate look at the accelerated healing process is afforded by Markides in the twelfth chapter, entitled, ‘Healing’. Herein a middle-aged woman named Ms Katina beseeches Daskalos to relieve her of excruciating back pain generated by a spinal deformity. Prior to this auspicious visit, there was no way that this particular individual could twist, turn, or initiate any back movement without awakening incisive daggers up and down her spinal column. Daskalos prompts the woman to lay frontwards and keep still as he begins stroking the problematic area in a perfunctory fashion, explaining to Markides that the physical contact enables his etheric ‘hands’ to enter within and dematerialize bony corpuscles that had deleteriously gravitated about her spine and caused draconian agony. The procedure took twenty-five minutes at most, yielding astonishing results. Before long Ms Katina was up on her feet, scuffling about and enacting physical movements which were previously impossible. Not impressionable by any stretch of the imagination, Markides admits that something miraculous had indeed transpired that afternoon. The pre and post X-rays of Ms Katina’s spine definitely add credence to sentiments entertaining something of a miraculous nature. Her GP, we later learn, was equally baffled by the somatic transformation. This was probably the single most critical case that convinced the anthropologist Markides of Daskalos’s supernatural latitudes, many of which could not be attributed to the psychological agency of suggestion or autosuggestion.
Belief, it seems, plays a fundamental role in illnesses and determines the efficacy of treatment. Its power is such that it can move mountains and raise cities. It can also render diagnostic tests aimed at calculating the life expectancy of terminally ill patients defunct and insignificant. Most would agree that there’s simply no way of quantifying the power of belief and its latent effect on cells, organs, and tissues. That consciousness effects matter is a given, otherwise fields of critical inquiry like psychoneuroimmunology would never have attained an honourable and reputable status in the scientific world. Speaking with reference to autosuggestion, Daskalos clarifies to Markides that his therapeutic methodology is emasculated only when the receiver’s unconscious erects walls of resistance. Put another way, the catalytic healing effect is retarded indefinitely when the effusion of etheric energy coming from the spiritual healer is prevented from entering the patient’s body, a phenomenon contingent upon an unconscious rather than a conscious deliberation. So the beliefs of the receiver are critical to Daskalos’s success or failure. The patient has to desire their own recovery; it’s a two-way street.
Furthermore, proficiency in healing is underpinned by familiarity with the fourfold nature of ether, or etheric vitality as he calls it. Ether flows like electricity through the human nervous system and exhibits four explicit but intangible properties: the kinetic; the sensate; the imprinting; and the creative. To this, Daskalos adamantly adds that the sensate, the second property, enables sensory experience, feelings, and emotions whereas imprinting, the third principle, can be held accountable for the possibility of telekinesis and exomatosis. Daskalos alleges that both are required for healing: “Through the imprinting property of ether, we could create two etheric hands and place them inside the body of the patient. By mastering the sensate property of ether, we could then feel on the edges of our etheric fingers the spinal problem and move the vertebrae into their proper place. Four hands are now at work, the material hands outside the body, and the etheric hands inside.”
Reading about Daskalos’s expositions on etheric energy we are reminded of our esoteric forefathers and their belief in an intangible primal substance which pervades the universe and unifies all earthly and heavenly aspects of creation. Some of the more renowned conceptualizations motivated by this very esoteric idea are the Chinese concept of Qi; the Indian prana; the alchemical prima materia; Reichenbach’s odic force; the ‘akasha’ of Blavatsky and the Theosophists; Democritus’s eidola; and Mesmer’s ‘animal magnetism’ or mesmeric fluid. All these echo the same fundamental proposition, namely that a single vital life force has begotten the phenomenal veil of diverse appearances. The empirical validity of such a concept should not be scoffed at or disparaged; if current developments in theoretical physics assent to the possibility that dark matter and energy might actually exist, then why should scientific empiricism not also warm to an esoteric cosmogony in which ether plays a crucial role? If the existence of dark matter has been inferred from the anomalous gravitational effects intrinsic to visible matter, radiation, and what not, then shouldn’t we also infer the existence of something else (i.e. ether) to account for the fact that an individual can precipitate or markedly alter the habitual responses and limitations of the human immune system? According to this ideation dark matter and energy accounts for missing mass in the universe and ether for accelerated and altered healing responses in that same universe. This would seem like a logical extrapolation, right? We can’t include one but preclude the other, unless of course we jettison deductive reasoning and adopt paradoxical beliefs.
The last individual intellectually rebellious enough to entertain such an idea was the German physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). Much closer to the ideals and practices of a Renaissance magus than a contemporary psychiatrist or psychotherapist, Mesmer pioneered an alternative healing method called ‘animal magnetism’ that never really gained professional traction. One day in 1773, a certain twenty-seven year-old female by the name of Fraulein Oesterlin sought his services in hope that she might be extricated of no less than fifteen separate symptoms. Influenced by a cerebral cocktail combining murky theorizations presented in his medical dissertation about the planet-body connection and non-sanctioned magnetic practices of certain English physicians, Mesmer become possessed by the idea of trying something completely novel; after selecting a quasi-astrological auspicious date (a common practice in those days), he encouraged her to swallow an iron tincture before securing magnets to three specific areas of her body. Almost immediately, Oesterlin reported the sensation of a mysterious fluid draining out of her body and an immediate cessation of the debilitating symptoms. Mesmer’s own explanation of this phenomenon was that the magnetic passes had simply reinstated the equilibrium of ‘mesmeric fluid’ in her body, the same all-pervading substance to which Daskalos has given the name etheric energy. The following year Mesmer began treating Maria-Theresia Paradis, the eighteen year-old daughter of a prominent civil servant, in an attempt to restore her failed vision. It appears that he succeeded, albeit fleetingly. Later, her physicians would specificate that what visual acuity she had reacquired was conditional to Mesmer’s presence and that further, his method had been unsuccessful in the long-term. Of course these shortcomings did little to deter the charismatic Mesmer, who continued to promulgate and advertise the therapeutic technique to aristocratic highbrows able and willing to pay his exorbitant fees.
Mesmer’s cosmogony is interesting. He was convinced, beyond an element of doubt, that an ethereal fluid, a gravitatio universalis, pervaded the universe and qualitatively coupled the heavenly bodies–the stars and planets–to Planet Earth and its ephemeral inhabitants. Thus there were times when planetary alignments, oppositions, and conjunctions changed the flowing tides of this fluid in a way that disturbed somatic equilibrium, resulting in disease. For Mesmer, maladies were tantamount with a reduction in this fluid which could be corrected with repeated magnetic passes over the affected regions. Returning for a brief moment to The Magus of Strovolos, we see that Daskalos’s theoretical position with respect to the causes of illness is nearly identical to Mesmer’s. In Daskalos’s understanding, the Holy Spirit creates cells, tissues, and organs at a particular vibrational frequency which must be maintained for the optimum functioning of health. When somatic consciousness is oppressed, often through the prolonged projection of negative emotions like anger, anxiety, phobia, depression, and hatred, the vibrations are disturbed. In this weakened state the body becomes much more susceptible to the ‘tides’ of pathogenic action. Though the morphology of the supernatural agency differs from Mesmer’s, Daskalos is quintessentially making the same overarching statements about the nature of illness and healing. These seem plausible, but their ‘unscientific’ quality has lamentably guaranteed them the same treatment as the monotheistic Akhenaten and his creative Aten.
In the final analysis, ether may exist. Who’s to say that it can’t? Perhaps sometime in the future the idea will re-emerge slightly changed in the archetypal model of a significant thinker, a thinker that doesn’t do intellectual-scaping within lines, corners, walls, squares, or three-dimensional cubes, for that matter. But for now, the only possible assessment is a phenomenological one, the experience of reality through the perceptual kaleidoscope of a spiritual healer who invites us into his extraordinary and magical world and challenges us at every opportunity:
“What is the thing causing the curing? It is something within the body. Call it etheric energy, magnetism, God, whatever. But it is that something within the body which can heal the wound within twenty days, let us say. Is it not so? Now if I can inject two hundred times as much of that energy and vibrate it there the wound can be healed at an accelerated pace. This is pure mathematics,” Daskalos claimed with enthusiasm. “This is what actually happens when a healer sometimes can cure a wound within minutes, assuming of course that Karma will permit it.
When I look at a wound," he went on, "I can see inside it, I can see inside you. That means my I-ness can be inside you and whatever is in your body I can examine. When I closed my eyes I saw your leg cured. That means I have built a mental image of a cured leg and placed it there and injected it with etheric vitality. I have exercised my will-power that this leg of yours be cured. I constructed and placed there the mould, the mental image of a cured leg.”